A season full of promise, challenges and high expectations ended where it began 8 months prior at the bumpy, soulful, desert race track of Buttonwillow. After all the miles driven, laps turned, tires shredded, races run, fuel burned, motors built and tales told, the 2008 AFM Open Twins Championship came down to a battle for 1 point.
The weekends objective was clear, beat San Jose BMW's Brian Parriott and take the championship by a point. Finish 2nd to Brian and lose by a point. We gave him a good run, pushed him and his team hard all weekend but Sunday's race would see Brian reach the checkered flag first beating us by a few seconds and finishing the season with a championship winning 391 points to our 390 points. Munroe Motor's Tom Montano finished a few seconds back in 3rd and ended up 3rd overall in the championship with 305 points. My Desmoto teammate Scott Schwanbeck finished 4th overall with 235 points.
Disappointed? Yes. But, Parriott and Montano are successful, experienced, professional racers with national and international race wins and championships to their credit with the AMA, FUSA and FIM. At the beginning of the year if you told us we would be in a last race championship fight with Parriott and ahead of Montano, I would have thought that was a stretch. But stretch we did and in a year that started off as the Brian and Tom show ended up including us. Nothing to be ashamed of and a lot of motivation for next year!
Friday and Saturday practice was all business and very focused. Each team tested various setups, kept track of each others lap times and Brian and I creatively found each other on track a few times for a little "follow the leader" in an attempt to get a read on each other's speed. Lap times were close and we knew we were in the game. We entered the Formula 40 race on Saturday as a warm up and to get in race mode. Starting on row 4 in 15th position, we charged through the field passing Pat Blackburn halfway through lap 2 for the lead finishing with a comfortable margin and the win.
Sunday: With Open Twins being the first race after lunch, I didn't want to sit around all morning so I entered the 750 Superbike race. Brian considered doing the same race but elected to sit out and avoid any risk to him or his bike.
Starting on row 4 in position 15, I put the hammer down and railed up the outside of turn 1, up the inside of turn 2 and 3 and found myself in 5th position as I entered cotton corners. A couple laps later I was in second and set out for Garcia who by that time was well off the front. With only a couple laps to go, I wasn't sure I had enough time to real him in, but I pushed and could see he was coming back to me (I love it when that happens!). I got within striking distance on the last lap and made my move up the inside on the last turn to take the lead and the checkered. Two 1st's in two races! I was feeling strong, confident consistently clocking 1:50's and one high 1:49 which was quick by any measure. The BMW boy's took notice as they were timing me and knew we were on form and would be a threat in a couple hours.
Open Twins would be the second wave lining up behind the Open Production class. With Brian, Tom and Schwannie lined up to my right on the front row it all came down to now! When the green flag flew, I got hooked up with a good launch and was side by side with Brian as we exploded towards turn 1. I held him off and tipped it in first taking the hole shot! I thought, “Sweet, now drop this bastard and get on with it!” But no sooner than I was in the lead I was back in second as Brian stuffed me hard into turn 2 with a pro move. Ha, he was playing for keeps, but so was I! I was on his ass but he was flying and I thought “holy shit, this is gonna be a race!” Our first trip through the high speed banked right hander known as Riverside was a mind bender. At 120mph, knee and toes slammed and grinding the pavement, completely leaned over defying physics (and logic!), I could feel the bike drifting as we pushed to the extreme edge of grip! Brian just ahead and framed in my ferocious tunnel vision, smoke pouring off his leather knee sliders like we were in some bizarre wind tunnel experiment, I was totally on the limit and completely committed to staying with him, no matter what. He found some more speed for the race and it was going to take everything I had to stay with him let alone beat him. Each turn represented a” do or die” proposition as I went in hard on the brakes and out with the throttle pinned so the slightest mistake would mean a bike and rider yard sale! Total focus is always required but at that pace it was more about instinct, desire and pure belief!
Crossing the finish line to end lap 1, I was on his ass and was able to out brake him into turn 1. He would out drive me exiting turn 2 then I would close back up through cotton corners. Then it was the surreal mind bender of Riverside, tit for tat through the back section and esses and by the time we ended lap two we had already caught up to the back markers from the Open Production class! Shit, too F’g soon for this, damn it! It was hard enough to keep the rubber side down chasing Brian and now I would have to deal with the video game of passing slower riders! Ah, the joys of club racing! We both had to deal with it but he did a better job than me picking his way through and I got a bit unlucky in a couple spots. Brian gapped me by a couple seconds and I lost touch with him and wasn’t able to make it back up by race end. I kept my head down and rode my ass off but Brian was hooked up and flying and I couldn’t catch him. Not saying if we had clear track that the result would have been different but I think I would have been able to challenge him.
All said, we pushed hard, rode on the limit the entire race and were well clear of Montano in 3rd which was some consolation as it was the first time I beat him straight up all year. I congratulated Brian on track with a shake of the gloves and nod of the helmet and rode back to the garage where Scott and Ian were there to take the bike. The smiles on their faces spoke volumes to me as I was bummed that I had let them down, but being the great guys they are they were happy with the effort and held their heads high. Their support made me feel better and meant more to me than they will ever know. Still, it sucks being that close and losing and no doubt we were disappointed but also motivated that we’ll have something for those boys next year!
By the numbers we finished 2nd overall in the Open Twins Championship, never finished off the podium with 5 first place finishes, 8 second place finishes, and 1 third place finish. In the 3 AMA Formula Xtreme events we contested we finished in 17th place each time. When you add all the days spent at track days testing bikes and working on riding, we had a full schedule! (eh, Scott?!)
This was a true team effort including all friends, old and new, who were pullin’ for us all year long. Scott had the bikes ready for battle and we had ZERO mechanicals! If you ride motorcycles and don’t have the gang at Desmoto work on your bike, you’re making a big mistake!
To say, “I couldn’t have done it without you” fails to convey the depth of my appreciation and respect for Ken Hill who has been my coach, mentor and friend. A truly remarkable rider and teacher and I will always be in awe of him and his abilities.
Thank you to all of our sponsors for making the season possible and it was an honor to represent you on and off the track. We hope to see you back next year!
And finally, to my favorite umbrella girl and my two boys for letting Dad go over the edge, thanks!
See you all next year, we have some cool stuff in the works that will give the boys at the front fits so stay tuned. And Scott, remember, the off season is just beginning!!