Jake Holden returned to the American Superbike field this weekend in Fontana, and quickly demonstrated why he is a force to be reckoned with in the class. Still nursing a broken thumb and running without a real crew, Holden made his mark on the field in the first timed session on Friday by posting the third fastest time.
All the more impressive was that his time was set on his personal CBR while using the same set of tires all session and with only one tire warmer after his rear warmer shorted on pitlane. The Friday afternoon qualifying session also went well for Holden. While his closest competitors were routinely coming back down pitlane for fresh rubber in an attempt to set a fast time, Holden didn’t have that luxury in his personal budget. Even though Holden only had one set of tires, he was able to post the seventh quickest time.
The qualifying drama continued after the session when his fuel was found to be slightly out of specification-most likely due to a contaminated fuel container that the team had used. With his qualifying time disallowed, Holden mentally prepared to re-qualify Saturday morning.
Saturday greeted all the AMA Superbike competitors with high winds. The winds were so strong that on track activities were put on hold for safety concerns. When the on track activities resumed, there was not enough time for a second qualifying session.
The AMA Superbikes were only going to have one fifteen minute warm up before the race. After discussing the situation with the AMA, Holden was going to be allowed in the field based on his Friday morning practice time-the only other timed session of the weekend-good enough for seventh place on the grid.
As the AMA American Superbikes were gridding up, Holden’s privateer bike was in stark contrast to all the other bikes gridded around him. Stock wheels, stock brakes, stock calipers, and stock radiator outfitted Jake’s bike while on his left on the grid was the factory Yamaha Superbike of Josh Hayes and to his right was the National Guard Suzuki of Jake Zemke-both glistening with magnesium wheels, oversized radiators, big Brembo rotors and calipers.
When the lights went out, Jake rocketed away with the lead group using his riding talent to overcome his hardware deficiencies. The race was shaping up well, Holden was running in fifth and looking to make a move on fourth when his bike slowed. The temperature was reading 230 degrees and Holden pulled into the pits trying to avoid engine damage to his one and only engine.
Jake’s "crew"– really just a collection of friends and family– pulled the radiator cap off and noticed that the fluid level was low, hoping it was simply an air bubble in the cooling system, they refilled the radiator and sent Jake back out to see if he would be able to race on Sunday or if the motor was too damaged to continue.
Sunday morning arrived with clear skies and no wind. After completely draining his radiator, refilling the cooling system and bleeding all the air out, Jake was ready to shake down his motor on Sunday morning. Morning warm up went well for Jake where he was able to run a good race pace even though he was re-using his front tire from Saturday’s race. None of Saturday’s cooling issues re-surfaced during the morning warm-up.
After fitting a new set of race rubber that was bought by a fan, making a slight gearing change, and adjusting his brake setup, Holden was quietly confident of his chances in Sundays final. When the lights went out, Jake had a great start and latched onto the lead group. When the leaders started to break away, Jake was right there with them. The race was shaping up well and Holden was strategizing where to make his moves on the riders in front of him when disaster struck. The bike slowed and the temperature shot up to 230 degrees again.
The "crew" watched helplessly as he pulled off the racing line and coasted into the pits. The motor had overheated again in the race, probably due to a small crack or pinhole in the motor. Holden was a victim of his limited financial resources, with proper funding there would have been a spare engine to mount in the frame for Sunday’s race. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
Holden’s bike is heading home to Seattle, where he will try and get the necessary funds together so he can repair his motor. Currently, Holden plans on returning to the American Superbike field at Infineon and Laguna Seca, both tracks that he has historically done well at.
In the next few days, there will be an announcement about an innovative new fundraising campaign for Holden, including how fans can help and get involved to keep Jake on track.
"That didn’t go exactly to plan! Two DNF’s is not what I needed this weekend. I just hope that some people took notice of what we were able to do this weekend. Most of the other guys tested here, and for sure they had more money and resources, but we were still able to run with them during practice and qualifying. Even the races I was right where I wanted to be until the motor went."
"I did get some help this weekend from fans that bought me tires and I’m really grateful for that. I’m going home now and will keep training, keep fundraising, and keep working hard… my luck has got to change at some point. Anybody need a rider?"