2022 Season End / BLOG
by Andy DiBrino
What a crazy year it has been. I think I say that at the end of every year, but this year was quite the roller coaster. I haven't written as much about it as I would've liked, and unfortunately a lot of that has to do with loosing out on the Super Hooligan title, and the sour ending of my Stock 1000 MotoAmerica campaign. But I am going to dive into that right now, as well as the crazy opportunity I just had racing Red Bull Straight Rhythm.
Last I left off with this blog was The Ridge round of MotoAmerica, hot off the podium in Stock 1000. That was for sure one of the season highs this year.
Another highlight of 2022, in August at the Castle Rock TT American Flat Track I got 5th in Production Twins on the KTM 790 Duke.
Laguna Seca Super Hooligans Finale & MotoAmerica Stock 1000
I had a lot of momentum going into Laguna Seca for the Super Hooligans finale, as well as the Stock 1000 class. Laguna Seca is one of my favorite tracks, and I've had some great results there. I had a freshly built engine by EDR in my KTM 890 Duke R. We were able to squeeze out a little more horsepower to contend with the Indian 1200's.
Laguna started out awesome. I was fastest in practice, and I set pole position Friday in the Super Hooligans class. I was right on pace in Stock 1000 as well. Unfortunately, in the Stock 1000 race, I suffered a mechanical on the last lap and finished 7th place after holding down 5th the whole race. I was really bummed out, because even though I was in 5th, it was one of the strongest races of my season in that class. Sunday morning, I ended up dropping to 2nd in the final Super Hooligans qualifier. I was on a new pole position lap until I got held up by a rider not paying attention in the corkscrew, which ruined my lap to the checkers. But I wasn't worried, I knew I was fast! But I did miss out on the Wilbur Watch award for pole which was a bummer.
Going into the final Super Hooligans race, I was basically tied for the championship with Cory West and Tyler O'Hara. We had Jeremy McWilliams in the mix with us as well, and I knew he'd be playing teammate for Tyler.
All 3 of them were on Indian FTR 1200's, so if I didn't get the holeshot, it was going to be tough to pass and get away. The Indians pull hard off the corners and have a higher top speed, whereas I have a little bit better cornering ability.
When the race started, my nightmare came true. I got beat to the first turn and pushed wide. I regrouped and moved my way up into 2nd place. McWillliams was out in the lead, and I had West, O'Hara, and Chris Fillmore all over me. O'hara made a great pass on me that I wasn't expecting, but the battle was on. Unfortunately, I made a mistake grabbing a shift out of turn 2, and I dropped a few positions, allowing O'hara and McWilliams to create a small gap, while I was stuck battling with West and Fillmore. I made some great passes on them both multiple times. But every attack I made on Cory West, he was able to immediately power back by me. I finished the race in 4th, which put me 3rd overall in the championship. It was a fun race for fans to watch, but a very frustrating one for me. I didn't execute my plan, which was tough on me, as I invested so much into the deal. But that is racing. And I am proud of what I accomplished. The whole experience made me a better rider than I was before, so that was the positive takeaway for me.
Photo Brian J Nelson
During Sunday's Superbike race, I only made it one lap before my bike nearly spit me off. It was trying to die in the turns, which was very dangerous, and I had to pull off to avoid incident.
I had been struggling to keep an old bike running competitively in the 1000cc races, and my ZX-10R engine expired.
With the Stock 1000 rules being so strict, they wouldn't allow me to swap a brand new 2021 engine I had into my 2020 bike. There was a slight difference between the two, which made it illegal. The silly part is the difference was just a small reliability update they made, which provided no performance increase in power.
So, it was a rough weekend on me, certainly one I didn't want to write about.
After Laguna, my mission was to stay on the MotoAmerica circuit chasing the Stock 1000 series, as I was still 4th in points, not far out of 3rd place.
Fixing the ZX-10R was an option, but in the timeframe, nearly impossible. Had we been able to acquire the correct year engine eligible for me to use in my 2020 bike, getting it to EDR Performance and having it built to Stock 1000 spec, then installed and tuned, and then transported to the next race (Minnesota) was just not in the cards.
And honestly, the bike needed more than a motor. My frame was cracking where it had been repaired before. So, the next option was trying to find a ride for the rest of the season. A couple options presented themselves, but the cost was as much as buying a brand-new race bike. So, I decided to go for a brand-new race bike instead!
And with help from a few sponsors and selling one of my other motorcycles, I got my hands on a 2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R.
Photo Brian J Nelson
The bike was already built to Stock 1000 spec, as it was owned by a competitor of mine. The engine was freshly rebuilt, and the bike only a few race weekends old, as well as equipped with the K-Tech suspension I like to run. On paper, it looked like the perfect bike to buy. The Honda was something I wanted to switch to because of how good their contingency payouts are, and because this new bike of theirs was supposed to be really good. I got a chance to ride a stock one prior to buying this race bike, and the experience sealed the deal for me.
When I showed up to Minnesota, it was without my dad or Eric from EDR. They couldn't make the race because we hadn't planned on racing anything after Laguna. It was my mission to be there, and I was lucky enough to round up Joe from Kramer Motorcycles USA to help. A more than qualified guy and a local at Brainerd International Raceway. The new Honda was delivered to us Thursday night, and we scrambled to go over the bike and make adjustments on it for me so that it was ready to hit the track in practice Friday morning.
I had a lot on my plate that first practice Friday morning. I had to learn a new track I've never rode on a bike I have never rode. The engine was just rebuilt and installed prior to receiving the bike, so I had to take it easy and break it in somewhat. I felt really uncomfortable all session long and was struggling for grip. When I came into the pits, we noticed an oil leak coming off the right side of the bike, and it was getting on my rear tire! Super sketchy. We had a mess to clean up and a situation to fix. The culprit ended up being a pinched engine case gasket from the person who assembled the engine. Luckily that person was there at the track and lent us some help and gave us a replacement gasket we needed.
So I was back in action for Qualifying 1 that afternoon Friday. I started to get more comfortable on the bike and learn the track, and I ended the session inside the top 10, which I was pleased with considering everything. It was a sad day though, loosing Scott Briody in a crash at the end of our session.
Sunday morning, I was out in Qualifying 2, and I was immediately on a new personal best lap time. I entered the second to last corner, when suddenly, my bike started shaking out of control and I crashed on the entry of the turn. I was at a loss as to what happened. It happened so fast. I didn't feel like I was out of control, but I wasn't used to the bike yet and I was still quite unfamiliar with the track. The bike was feeling funky to me ever since I threw a leg over it, but I kind of just chalked it up to it all being a new experience with the new bike and new track.
We ended up having K-Tech look at the forks, because I was struggling with front end feeling. Turns out, one of the fork cartridges had come loose and wasn't functioning properly. So that was essentially why I crashed. It was frustrating to learn, but at least it cleared up the confusion about the crash. K-Tech fixed the forks; however, they weren't able to fix the setup on the forks, which had been dramatically altered from the stock settings that they come with and that I've raced with for years. The past owner of the bike had a suspension guy tweak the K-Tech settings to something entirely different that I didn't like. But I was stuck with it for the weekend because K-Tech didn't have the parts on hand at the track to change it back to normal.
Finally, it was time to race Superbike on Saturday. We barely got my bike fixed. Literally with seconds to spare as we rushed me out on track for the sighting lap. I qualified horrible since I didn't complete a lap in qualifying 2. But I was just going to go out and continue to try to learn the bike and track. After about 6 laps in, my hands were completely numb. The vibration from the bike was unbearable. It was something I had noticed immediately in practice Friday morning, but I never spent more than 3-5 laps at a time on track during the practice and qualifying sessions. I ended up running off track in the same placed I had crashed earlier. The runoff was horrible, and I hit the airfence. It was so slow, and I lost balance, tipping over. Honestly the most embarrassing silly crash. I broke the coolant overflow mount, so I had to retire from the race. It was a very frustrating day.
Sunday, it rained in the morning, so we sat out practice since we had no spare parts to repair a bike anymore. I went out for the Stock 1000 race, and the bad luck continued. My clip-ons wouldn't stay in place, and they moved on me. I had to come into the pit lane to tighten them, which made me have to start the race from last. I got a good start and started making some passes, only for the handlebars to come loose again just a few turns into the race. I tried to make it work for a couple of laps, but it was too dangerous and hard to ride. So, I came back into the pits yet again. This time, we discovered it wasn't the clip-ons that were loose, it was the forks themselves in the triple clamps. We got it properly fixed, but it cost me to go a lap down. I went back out and then the raced was red-flagged a few laps later. Because I was a lap down, I was not allowed to restart the race. A disappointing finish and weekend to say the least.
Thousands of dollars spent, countless hours of work, and no result to show for it all. But at least I was healthy.
I decided to have my new Honda brought back home to Oregon to try to fix it before the next MotoAmerica race. Suspension was top priority, as well as figuring out the engine vibration. K-Tech sent EDR a new shock and fork cartridge kit so we could completely start over with fresh stuff, and it worked amazing. I got to try the bike out at The Ridge Motorsports Park with the new suspension, and the bike was totally different. I felt dialed, and I broke the non-chicane configuration lap record just a few sessions into the track day I was testing at. But still, we couldn't figure out what was causing the horrible vibration through the bike. This is not normal for a Honda. I could only ride hard for about 5 laps before I was numb. We also ran into an overheating issue with the bike, forcing us to end our day early.
Now, the engine for sure had to come apart. Eric from EDR discovered the head gasket was blown, 3rd gear in the tranny was shot, and we believe the major engine vibration was due to the crank being significantly out of balance. But with parts availability being sparce in this day in age, it meant that I was not going to get to finish out the MotoAmerica season. It took a couple months to get some of the replacement parts we needed from Honda. Some of which, we had to order directly from Japan just to get. But the good news is, that finally, Eric is reassembling the engine, and I will hopefully be testing and racing the Honda in California before the end of the year. That way I can decide if the Honda is going to be my future 1000cc bike or not.
Now the ZX-10R, it has been sitting in our garage since Laguna. MotoAmerica just changed their rules to basically allow us to do some head surfacing, so now that engine might be able to be rebuilt and still be MotoAmerica legal. I think the plan is to rebuild that bike for sale, or to keep if the Honda doesn't work out.
The new MotoAmerica schedule for Stock 1000 was disappointing to say the least, with no races for the class at The Ridge or Laguna, the only 2 rounds the series travels to on the west coast.
So, I am not sure if I will be running any Stock 1000 next year, other than maybe one round at the newly repaved Road America in Wisconsin because that's one of my favorite tracks.
Red Bull Straight Rhythm & The Moto Beach Classic
The whole opportunity to go race Red Bull Straight Rhythm goes back to Laguna Seca following the Super Hooligans race, Roland Sands approached me about the idea.
I was totally shocked by it, but obviously it intrigued me. I sent him an email about a week after Laguna to follow up with him and see if he could actually get me an invite. Sure enough, I got an email from the promoter of RBSR soon after.
Now I had just a couple of months to figure out how to ride Supercross! As I've never done it before.
Photo Nick Zaback
Now obviously I've grown up riding motocross and have spent a ton of time riding a dirt bike. I've done a little bit of arenacross which is similar, but still, it was going to be a tall order to show up to RBSR and expect to be competitive against a group of actual pro supercross racers. I hadn't ridden motocross since February, so I had to knock off some rust.
I borrowed my neighbors 125 and started riding my local mx track, Pats Acres. Eventually MotoSport Hillsboro hooked me up with a 2022 KTM 150SX to setup. Kreft Moto from Bend, Oregon hooked me up with some WP Pro Component suspension setup for supercross. And to cap it off, Stankdog, a famous supercross and motocross racer sent me his carburetor off his 125 so my bike would run perfect, and it did.
Now the challenge was to find someplace to ride supercross. There are no supercross practice tracks in the PNW. The closest thing I was able to come up with was my friend Mason Wharton's arenacross practice track, where he had a proper set of supercross style whoops built. I spent 2 days at his place getting trained on how to hit the whoops. The first day was challenging, but the second I was hitting them like a pro! And I did it without any crashes.
Going into the RBSR event, I felt like I had prepared as much as one could given the tools I had!
Photo Nick Zaback
Fortunately, I got to ride a real supercross track a day prior to the event at Lake Elsinore. Stankdog invited me, and we got my bike fined tuned even more, and the riding made me feel a little more at ease about riding the next day. When I got to the event, the track was bigger and more difficult than I thought it would be! It was actually quite daunting, I thought I might have to pull out of the event because I wasn't sure I could ride the track.
Photo Nick Zaback
I geared up for my first practice, alongside 11 other 125cc racers, and hit the track alongside Carson Brown. When we launched off the starting pad, I held my breath for the big drop immediately after it. I cleared it. There was no other way to hit that start other than to launch off it! That was crazy to do the first time. As Carson and I rode the course the first time, I just tried to copy him. I jumped through the rhythms with him in sync for about halfway though. I made it through the course for the first time and the adrenaline was pumping through my body. It was exciting! A bode of confidence hit me, and I kept taking runs down the straight-lined supercross track. At the conclusion of practice 1, I was looking competitive against some of the competition, and my and my crew were ecstatic to find out that I had a shot at this. It was honestly a big question mark for myself and everyone if I was trying something out of my ability or not.
Photo Nick Zaback
Practice 2 went even better. I finally hit the huge tabletop in the middle of the track that was built out of scaffolding over a public restroom. It was wide open on my bike to clear it! I was really getting the hang of the whoop section as well, so the training with Mason back home was coming into play! I ended the day with no incidents, my bike was working amazing, and I had a ton of fun.
Now we had to prep my KTM 790 Duke flat track bike for the flat track race on Saturday I was doing in addition to RBSR! It was going to be a crazy day attempting to race both, but you know me, I am crazy enough to try.
Saturday morning was an early one! We had practice at 8am sharp on the RBSR track. The track was a little slick, so I didn't ride much. I immediately had to swap bikes and go try the flat track out for practice. Then I was back on my 150cc KTM dirt bike going out for timed qualifying on the straight rhythm track. I had 3 timed runs to do, where they took my best run time for qualifying. 12 riders were invited, and only the top 8 fastest qualify into the actual racing event. A couple riders had some bike issues, so I had a shot at making it in! My confidence got shaken big time though, because in one of my warmup runs in the qualifying session, I had my first crash. I was hitting a step-on step-off section when I jumped off a tabletop and clipped my rear wheel on the landing and went flying over the handlebars. I banged my foot up, but I was still good to ride. On my first timed run, I got through clean and put down a time that was good enough for 8th place! It wasn't my best run, but it was decent. On my second timed run, I tried a little harder, and crashed in the same spot as before. Luckily the impact wasn't as hard on me, but I tweaked my bars pretty good. My confidence was not as good having done this a second time, and I decided not to take my final qualifying run.
To my disbelief though, I made the show with 8th place in qualifying!
I honestly didn't expect I would actually get to race at RBSR. My goal was just to not look like an idiot who shouldn't be out there, and I blew that goal out of the water. I now had a few hours to kill before the racing got started, and in that time, I was on my hooligan flat tracker the whole time. I had timed qualifying practice on the hooligan bike, in which I set the fastest time. I was feeling good! I went out and won my heat race after a little battle at the start with FMX legend Robbie Maddison.
Photo Nick Zaback
Going into the Dash for Cash, an old rival of mine for the original Super Hooligan Championship in 2017 showed up to play, Brad Spencer. I got the holeshot and took the in in the 4 lap Dash for Cash. I was feeling confident for the main event!
Photo Nick Zaback
The main event turned out to be a chaotic one, which was kind of expected and typical for the Moto Beach classic. The track had dried up a ton and started to deteriorate, and I hadn't planned for that and made setup changes to my bike which was a mistake on my behalf. I got a bad start because I spun off the line. I found myself in 3rd trying to find a way around the one-line mini oval. Because I was looking inside and outside, I ended up getting bumped back to 5th. But we had a red flag and a restart where I had an opportunity to move back up in the order. But that just made things worse, and the carnage of bikes bumping and grinding up against each other amplified. We had at least another red flag, maybe two. I don't remember, it all happened so fast and it was just that chaotic! All I remember is on the final restart, I got a killer jump and was entering turn 1 in 2nd or 3rd, and the rider inside of me didn't turn and rode straight into the side of me, bashing my leg, nearly knocking the steel shoe off my boot, and blowing me way out wide where I lost a bunch of positions. I made a couple passes in the couple laps we got and finished 5th. I was frustrated to not even podium, but all in all, it was worth showing up and racing in front of so many people! It was fun.
Now it was time for straight rhythm racing to begin! I was ditching the 400-pound 790cc twin for a 190-pound 125cc single. With no warmup, it was straight to racing in the head-to-head bracket.
Just imagine racing flat track, and then having to jump into a supercross race! Two completely opposite styles of bikes and racing. Fortunately, I had been doing this most of the day, so I was as prepared as I could be. But I hadn't ridden the RBSR course in front of 30,000 people on live tv just yet! The nerves I was feeling was the gnarliest I have ever felt before. All I could think about was not crashing after the couple crashes I had in the morning. As I start on the starting gate elevated above the track and looked down at the sea of people along the beach, the intensity made me shake!
The lights were on, and the gate was about to drop. Before I knew it, I was feathering the clutch and launching down into the track. I did my best to hit my marks. I held my breath through the section I had crashed in, with a huge amount of relief once I got through without incident. When it was time to sky over the giant tabletop in the middle, that is where it started to sink in what it was that I was doing. I finished the run, blitzing though the whoops and jumping the finish line double. I was so stoked to cross the line. I got my butt whooped by Josh Varize, but I didn't care. Nobody expected me to beat him, nor be close. Most including myself didn't even expect I would be racing and make it as far as I did. I made my way back for the second run. Best 2 out of 3 advanced. Once again, I got a clean start and made it through the scary section of the track for me, my nerves still shot! It was hard enough to ride the course in practice with no fans around. I am trying to put that out of my mind, so that I can focus on riding technique and all the things I must do within milliseconds to set up for the obstacles and attack the track. In the midst of this, I made the dumbest, silliest mistake. I forgot to grab 3rd gear for the big tabletop. I didn't realize until it was too late, and I didn't clear the jump. I was embarrassed to not clear it, but I finished the run and was eliminated.
Success! I had survived my experience racing supercross for the first time.
As a racer, you always want to do better. I am extremely hard on myself, always reflecting on how I could've been better. But I think I ought to be happy about the whole deal. I mostly am, but I am thinking about what I will do next time if I get the chance to race this event again in the future! At least then, I will know exactly what I am getting myself into, and I will be a lot more prepared. Racing RBSR and the Moto Beach Classic in the same day was insane. I was the only one doing it, and my competitors thought it was cool. I earned some more street cred amongst the hooligans, and I made some new friends in the supercross world. I have a newfound respect of supercross racers. It is not easy! Seeing guys like Barcia, Roczen, Hansen and Webb hit the track is humbling.
During the event, I got to meet the CEO of KTM USA, as well as Roger DeCoster and Ian Harrison from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. DeCoster spent about 5 minutes checking out my hooligan flat track bike which was cool. I can't thank Red Bull's team who put the event on and Roland Sands enough for the wild opportunity to be part of RSBR. It was surely something I'll never forget, and a cool way to end my 2022 race season.
Photo Nick Zaback
I haven't ridden since the event. I hurt my foot and ankle pretty decent in that qualifying crash, and I was limping around for a while following this. But it's been a few weeks now and I am feeling better, so maybe I'll get some local flat track or motocross racing in, and possibly hit Chuckwalla for some road racing in December!