PPM Kawasaki: Miller SportBike Report

2011 AMA SportBike

You could cut the air of disappointment with a knife. Nobody wanted to say it, but the conspicuous silence that had befallen the Peak Performance Racing Kawasaki team after the Miller Motorsports Park AMA SportBike weekend was palpable.

It seemed frustration supplanted what should have been celebratory banter and talk of future exploits. We should have been hailing Paddy’s respectable AMA Pro Daytona SportBike finish in front of the World Superbike crowd this Memorial Day weekend.

Except for one small problem: Paddy didn’t finish; and worse, this would mark his third DNF in as many races. After all the expense and commitment of time and resources, Paddy would be denied, yet again even a last place AMA SportBike finish.

It was a long drive home from Salt Lake City to Simi Valley, Calif. Commencing immediately after the race and completed with the utmost haste, reflecting perhaps the need to quickly put this episode behind and move forward.

Telephone calls and text messages went unanswered. More than a week had passed before the Peak Performance Racing Kawasaki team reassembled for any kind of postmortem analysis. A painful time of reflection for all involved no doubt. How could fate be so cruel to this dedicated young racer?

Like it or not, this is the nature of racing; and it’s best to learn it early on. In this regard, motorcycle racing is as much an exercise in persistence and determination as it is in stamina and physical endurance. Testing the limits of one’s stick-to-itiveness is part of the training regimen. Only a fellow racer can know fully the emotional toll paid and the courage it takes to get up and try again. A fellow racer and perhaps a father.

The AMA SportBike weekend didn’t start off bad. Saturday was dry and warm, absolutely the best of conditions for practice. Paddy had never ridden the ZX6R or any bike at Miller on Dunlop tires, but posted excellent lap times there on Pirellis over the last few years. So the first practice saw Paddy in the top 20, with lap times off his personal best by a second and a half.

AMA Pro Racing allowed the SportBike riders to run the British Dunlop rear tires due to durability issues with the domestic spec rears on this fast track with the 3500-foot straightaway. This was a prudent call and no doubt much appreciated in the pits.

The first AMA SportBike qualifying session at Miller took place in similarly ideal conditions on Saturday afternoon and Paddy was able to drop a half second.

The morale boosting times encouraged Paddy to use the opportunity to run a full 17 laps in mock race mode. It seemed the team was firing on all cylinders and the results were very encouraging. Other than the gnawing fear that rain would interrupt the momentum, everybody was looking forward to the race on Sunday.

While Alan did all he could to see his son shine at Miller, Paddy would have preferred to see the sun shine on race day. Instead, conditions were about as bad as they could be.. cold, wet, changing and unpredictable.

Long periods of downtime spent in the frigid 40-degree air allowed the pervasive cold to intrude on everybody’s mental state. Riding didn’t offer much relief in the pouring rain. During the final qualifying session, Paddy had to pull in after only three laps to deal with frozen hands. Alan was quickly dispatched to find some rubber gloves so that Paddy could at least keep his hands dry under the wet race gloves. Since it was evident that rain would be persisting throughout the day and likely into the race, the remaining time was used to practice on the rain tires.

Paddy’s best qualifying time from Saturday placed him 25th on the grid for the start of the race. The rain had stopped just prior to the race, but the track was still very wet with streams of water running across it in some areas. The drainage design at Miller must be among the best anywhere, because the track dried much quicker than we had anticipated. This presented a problem running rains and during the race many racers were seen intentionally diving into the remaining streams of water to keep the soft tires cool.

After a fairly good start, Paddy dropped back 5 or 6 positions on lap two to get more familiar with the grip offered by the rains on the now mostly dry track. Another couple of laps and he regained his original position then proceeded to pass another 5 or 6 riders, including Fernando Amantini, also on a ZX6R and Bryce Prince on his R6.

The front rain tire on the dry track produced a lot of chatter and headshake mid-corner and on the straights, but was mostly predictable. Then, 10 laps into the race things got much worse. The rear tire started exhibiting problems that led Paddy to believe it was chunking. The problem just worsened on lap 11 and 12, which would have been consistent with a chunking issue. Unaware that he only had to complete three more laps to finish the race, Paddy pulled in on lap 13 and took a DNF. Soon finding the tire was not chunking, Paddy was quite upset with himself that he had not finished the race.

Father and son spoke on the somber drive home about the weekend and entertained the possibility of leaving Daytona Sportbike for the AMA Pro Racing Supersport series. Reviewing the qualifying times and race times of the Supersport riders, not only from the Miller race but also from the Infineon races, it was apparent that Paddy would have easily competed for the podium in that class. The team concurs. Paddy is still within the age limit and will be next year as well; and the bike setup is already eligible for Supersport with no changes required.

The team contacted AMA Pro Racing and found them eager to assist Paddy’s transition into the Supersport series, even crediting some of the Daytona SportBike fees already paid toward future Supersport races.

When asked to describe the AMA SportBike weekend in one word, Paddy’s response was “bummer,” but this turn of events may in fact be the right prescription for what’s ailing his success. His next race will be at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California during the MotoGP weekend July 22-24.

He is comfortable on that track and finished 20th there last year in Daytona SportBike on a Ducati 848. At the time he felt that he could go faster on his WERA West championship winning ZX6R.

Now he will have a chance to prove it. Better yet, he will be competing with the top three or four riders for the podium, a position less alien to him than the mid-pack struggles and DNFs manifested thus far in Daytona SportBike.

As of this writing, it was announced that AMA Pro Racing is trying to organize an October 28-30 season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This would be very good news for Paddy and the Peak Performance Racing team.

Paddy is very fast at Fontana and it’s an affordable local venue. Moreover, it would provide another much needed opportunity, in addition to the Monterey round for the team to vindicate itself.

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.