AFM Motorcycle Racing at Buttonwillow – A Report

American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) Round 7 October 24-25 Buttonwillow Raceway Park Track Configuration #13 Clockwise.

Racing (and Winning) AFM at 60 | Rider Perspective
Author Marc Rittner leads AFM Formula 3 race at Buttonwillow

It has been several months since I have posted a race report. Moto West Grand Prix had a summer break in July, and I had electrical problems in MWGP practice in August and went home early without racing.

I skipped the September and October rounds because I (correctly) predicted that no other racers would show up to contest the Formula Singles class. There used to be a very large field of Supermoto bikes racing Willow Springs when the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club (WSMC) ran the races, but when the club closed down most of them just evaporated. Times change.

AFM was “founded in 1954 by a group of sport riding enthusiasts in Northern California, the American Federation of Motorcyclists is the oldest organization in the country dedicated solely to motorcycle road racing.” I actually had raced with the organization back when I was 22-years old (1977). During those times I met some of my best friends that I keep to this day. My friends rocked it as racers. I sucked. But I am doing my best to make up for that now.

I knew that AFM had classes where I could race my 2008 Yamaha YZ450F supermoto, and that there would be competition. Stiff competition. Probably too tough for me, but hey, I’m an Expert now, and racing is not for sissies. Let’s line ’em up and see what happens.

Planning for the AFM round at Buttonwillow in October had been in the works for several months. Getting ready required suspension changes, engine maintenance, physical conditioning, race practice, and strategy development. There were some tight spots on the road here and there, and besides being extremely ill the week prior to the race, I felt that I was ready. Weakened physically, but otherwise ready. Never mind that my hands were starting to cramp-up just prior to the race.

Weather was bright and clear, temps in the mid 80s. Track was clean and hot, just the way my Dunlop-shod Yamaha likes it. Practice sessions allowed me to chase a variety of faster bikes, and run my all-time fast lap there at 2:02.6. I checked my lap times against those who thought I might be competing with in Formula 3, and knew it was going to be a real race.

AFM gridding is based on points. Not having raced with them for 38 years put me LAST on the grid. So as I headed out on the warmup lap for the Formula 3 race, I knew I had to get a good start. The field consisted of a KTM690, a pair of KTM390s, (three) Kawasaki Ninja 300s, and (one) YZ450F Supermoto (me).

Racing (and Winning) AFM at 60 | Rider Perspective YZ450F
Author Marc Rittner on his Yamaha YZ450F

The flag dropped, and I watched as the KTM 690 in my row on my left, and the KTM390 from the first row on my right quickly moved ahead of the rest of the pack. There was a big opening in the middle of the track to go through, but I was thinking that I could get boxed-in by those two guys if I could not out-accelerate them.

The KTM 390 made a small error in judgement and left about 18″ of track unused on his right, and I blasted my Yamaha right past and around him into the lead. It was on the 3rd lap, Turn 2 that Austin Danger Guinn (now AFM 2015 F3 Champ) showed me a wheel and tried to put his Ninja 300 around the outside. But my converted single cylinder dirt bike is light and has better acceleration than his twin-cylinder sport bike.

I rode pretty hard for another lap before I took a peek behind me to see if there was anyone around. The Ninja was still there, about 10-15 bike lengths back, so “Danger” was still afoot. Time to really put my head down and use the strengths of my package to best advantage. Hard on the gas, fast in the fast parts, use all the track, deep in on the brakes. No time to relax.

My laps times dropped by about a second per lap for every lap of the race, culminating in my fastest lap on lap 6 of 2:02.995. I hadn’t been shown a wheel since that third lap, but was prepared to defend my track position through the final corners. Fortunately I didn’t have to.

So now, 38 years later, and just having celebrated my 60th birthday, I finally won an AFM race. It sure feels good 🙂 Austin told me after the race that he got it all on GoPro; view our epic battle on his Facebook page.

My second race was on Sunday: Race 10 Formula Singles. There were only three of us in that race, but there was a lot of traffic from the first and second waves to deal with, and that made for a lot of fun. It was two of the same guys from the first race, with pretty much the same results. The effort on Saturday left me feeling sick for most of Sunday, so I really didn’t give my best effort. Fortunately it was more than enough.

Overall, it was a GREAT weekend for me. Clearly one of my best races ever. I hope to be able to keep my health (forget wealth!) and continue to race selected races with AFM, MWGP, AHRMA, WERA, and CVMA in the future.

Last, thanks to my friends, family, and sponsors for all the support they have given me since my return to racing in 2013. I never dreamed I could achieve this kind of success. Now I dream about it constantly.

Photography by CaliPhotography

THANK YOU:

Vicki Rittner
Kaming Ko
Arthur Coldwells
Steve Sheftel
David Price
David Malmberg
Jack Baker
Daryl Collins – C&B Tool
Hypercycle – Carry Andrew
Tom Maggard Machine Services
Ray-Bon Welding
Mummert Machine and Development
Dave Moss Tuning – Dave Moss
Hinson Racing
Vortex Racing
Jeff Gehrs – BrakeTech Ferodo
Evol Technology LLC – Steve Korol
Dunlop Tire Services – Jason Paden
APE Race Parts – Jay and Diane Eshbach
Suspension Matters – Jim Matter
KFG Racing – Suspension