PPR Kawasaki: 1st AMA SportBike Race

AMA SportBike Privateer: Infineon Report IV

Back at the staging area at Infineon Raceway, Calif., before AMA Daytona SportBike race 1, Alan (Paddy McCord’s father) removed the terminals from the quickshifter sensor and hard-wired it to the race harness on the Peak Performance Team Kawasaki ZX-6R.

The thinking was that it had to be a bad connection; and at some point, it appeared to be working again so no more thought was given. A fan dance of wheel and tire swaps ensued in preparation for the first SportBike race scheduled in the afternoon.

The 22-lap race would require fresh mediums front and rear (more tire expense). We still hadn’t changed out the OEM brake pads. In the process of swapping wheels, we overlooked the fact that most of the wheels had rotors mounted with carbon brake pad material embedded on them. Unfortunately, one such front wheel would be mounted with the fresh tire and used in the race.

Closing on Josh Galster going into the chicane on the warmup lap, Paddy had to pump the Kawasaki’s brake a few times to get any bite, but still tagged Galster’s rear tire because he couldn’t slow quickly enough.

Starting the Infineon SportBike race from the back of the grid, Paddy got off fairly well behind some of the other privateers. Making his way around the first two laps, Paddy began to chase Yamaha’s Melissa Paris (wife of reigning AMA Superbike Champ Josh Hayes).

Closing quickly going into Turn 7, Paddy first fingered then pulled the non-resistant brake lever all the way to the bars. Without a choice in the matter, the pass was made and another came just as suddenly on Craig Mason going into the chicane due to the same brake fade issue.

Not aware of the problem, we all thought he was advancing through the field quite nicely, until we saw him slow on the back straight. Paddy did the smart thing and pulled off at pit-in; you simply cannot race without brakes.

As he pulled in and indicated the loss of brakes on the Kawasaki ZX-6R, we all realized instantly that the OEM brake pads were not happy about mating with rotors clogged with carbon pad material. We were all kicking ourselves for having let each other down. Oh well, there would be Sunday’s race and we would have another opportunity to get it right.

Paddy also reported that the quickshifter issue had not been resolved. We had few diagnostic options to address this perplexing problem. The quickshifter sensor was throwing a signal, but the ECU wasn’t responding in kind by cutting the fuel & spark. We didn’t have a spare race ECU as the B bike still had the stock unit.

We didn’t even have the laptop or cable to communicate with the ECU (more space-saving items left behind). Plan B: I would leave Sonoma at 4:00pm and ride the Harley 400 miles back to the shop in Simi Valley.

I would email the map and software to Neil’s laptop upon which it would be installed. The guys would borrow the communications cable from another Kawasaki rider and the ECU would be re-flashed.

After much scrambling on Sunday morning to find a comm cable, Alan found the quickshifter suddenly working again without any intervention. After further thought, another theory was considered. It’s possible the battery voltage was dropping on the Peak Performance Kawasaki to a point where the quickshifter signal was too weak for the ECU to recognize. The theory was plausible, especially since this problem had never occurred before we installed the partial loss race alternator. The battery tender would be kept on until the second race, which was originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m., a few short hours away.

Because of the impending rain, the Daytona SportBike ace was moved up to 1 p.m. only to be delayed again while a short rain shower blew by the track. Meanwhile, the bike would be idling and not charging the battery for an extended period of time.

I was back in Thousand Oaks, so Arthur Coldwells, Ultimate MotorCycling magazine’s president took over the twitter duties on Sunday and I was getting real time updates from the track on my iPhone. Not quite the same as being there, but pretty exciting nonetheless.

When the race finally got underway, Paddy got a pretty good start. However, because of the potential for wet areas on the track, Paddy decided to play it cautiously on the first lap and so doing dropped back a couple of positions. After sighting the track, he was able to advance through the next 7 laps when he saw Danny Eslick indicating pit-in due to another rain induced race stoppage.

Again on the grid with the bike idling and not charging the battery, 20 minutes later the race was restarted for 17 laps. Another good start and Paddy was quickly chasing Huntley Nash while assessing a passing opportunity on him and the Sadowski brothers. Paddy felt his pace was faster and he had already moved into 19th position. Eight laps into the shortened race, the quickshifter gremlin would haunt Paddy yet again.

It should be said at this point that Infineon Raceway is one of the most technical tracks on the schedule. The concentration and stamina required is on par with that of a 12-round boxing match. There is just no getting around this track otherwise. With the ability to stay focused irreparably compromised, Paddy decided to pull in and take another DNF.

The weekend certainly was a tribulation for young Paddy McCord. Keeping things in perspective, Paddy reminded us that due to his lack of familiarity, he wasn’t expecting the best of results at this particular venue. Besides, Miller is awaiting…a track that Paddy really likes and upon which he has experience going fast. He is looking forward to the BigM World Superbike/AMA Pro Racing weekend in Utah where he is certain to find redemption.

While disappointment is an emotion that forever lurks in the background, a mature racer manages the pitfalls and soldiers on. That’s Paddy McCord…we can’t wait to see him shine and shine he will.

These articles report on Peak Performance Racing’s journey as the team competes in the AMA Daytona SportBike series with pilot Patrick “Paddy” McCord of California. The article, written by Peak Performance Motorcycles’ owner Danny DiNardo, chronicles what it takes to get started and compete in AMA Pro Racing competition. When Ultimate Motorcycling heard about the project, we immediately got involved.

AMA SportBike Privateer: Infineon Report I

AMA SportBike Privateer: Infineon Report II

AMA SportBike Privateer: Infineon Report III