The first race of the season was our first time on the bike since the GNF last October. It was also our first time on the new Yamaha R1. Dad, Doug, Aaron and I went into the weekend not expecting too much, but of course wanting to be competitive right out of the gate. Those aren't conflicting views, right?
Friday practice went off well enough. We sorted ergonomics, played with clickers and shook the rust off. By the end of the day, we were into competitive times which I was happy with. I've started to come around to the concept of good track time is better than just any track time. Coming from a great GNF at Barber last year, even with all that time off – going right into a race weekend the next season, while not ideal, isn't the worst possible thing. The worst possible thing is doing a couple track days, going slow and "sorting things" – or dodging traffic from a packed track and then trying to ramp up and build that speed into a race weekend.
Saturday's Heavyweight Solo race was a bit of an eye opener. Running a fresh set of Pirelli slicks and trying to figure out all the electronics on the new R1, we got off to a good start and led early on. As the laps clicked off, I started struggling with the bike. As the pace dropped, the bike starting moving around and wearing me out. A couple guys came by and put us into third place with a big gap back to fourth. I stuck out all 20 laps, wanting to give accurate feedback to dad, Doug and Aaron afterwards – as Sunday is what counts.
Once back in the pits, I sat down and wrote down a complete lap in my head, along with what the bike was doing in each corner. Handing it to dad and Doug, they read it, we talked over a few things and we went to work. Clickers, sag, seat, peg position, clip-on position, electronics and more were all on the list. They handled the suspension part, while Aaron and I worked on some of the other things. All minor, but the solo race was a great way to sort things out. I wasn't happy finishing third and wanted to turn that around for Sunday.
Right away in morning practice, the bike felt much better. I had equaled the best time from Saturday already, with three races to work on further improvement. It was funny how even with a brand new bike in the R1, we were heading in the same direction as we typically do when visiting Grattan. It goes to show that no matter the bike, trends in data seem to repeat themselves.
1000 Superstock was the first race up. AMA (er, MotoAmerica) regular Taylor Knapp was in this one. I've gotten to know Taylor pretty well over the years, from roadracing to dirt bikes, primarily through our mutual friend Mark Gonyou. In any event, he's been doing great on a new Yamaha R1 himself, so with Yamaha contingency up for grabs, he'd be the guy to chase in this one.
Off the line, we led into T1 and he passed by on exit, as I ran it wide getting in a little too deep. I followed for several laps, keeping the gap respectable, but he was inching away each lap. Gene Burcham, Mark Junge, Jeff Taylor, John Fitz and a number of other guys were in this one and we would finish 2nd behind Taylor, with a red flag shortening the race a couple laps short. In our first sprint race, we set a new personal best around Grattan at a 1:20.1.
Our second race was Formula 1. I led early for the first couple of laps before another red flag put us back into the pits. Jeff Taylor had run into Mark Junge going into T1, literally missing taking me out by inches. John had a GoPro on his bike and captured all the action. I had no idea what happened behind, but I narrowly missed be collected up in a terribly large mistake, admittedly made by JT.
On the restart, we led again. Mark and JT were out, so it was Gene and I up front. With two laps left, the bike started to sputter. Fuel! I backed off the gas, short-shifted and tried to make it – but Gene was closing and the bike was lurching worse. I threw up my hand and let Gene by, coasting in on fumes. We had fuel calculated and with the red flag, that threw everything off. We were having such good fuel economy all of Friday and Saturday, checking fuel again never crossed our minds. Lesson learned.
Our third race was 1000 Superbike. We led start to finish. Bike setup was good, fuel was good and it was a solid way to finish the weekend.
Overall, first time out on the new bike was a success. In hindsight, had we started with our usual "Grattan setup" on Friday, we would have been into faster times sooner and maybe been able to actually race with Taylor a little bit, which would have been awesome. I was shooting for faster times, but that'll have to wait. While not riding at congested track days has its benefits, having a little testing time before this weekend would have been beneficial in that regard.
As always, thank you to dad, Doug and Aaron for their help during the weekend, as well as leading up to it. A big thank you to Gene Burcham for loaning us an exhaust to use for this weekend, as our Yoshimura system hadn't yet arrived. Gene did quite a bit to help us and while running out of fuel was a silly mistake, one could argue it was good karma for Gene, as it handed him the win. I couldn't be too upset about that.
Next up is Road Atlanta. The long back straight was a bit much for the Suzuki 750's last year. Hopefully we'll be a bit more competitive this year against the 1000's, on equal ground.
Thanks for reading.
April 6th, 2015 – Maumee, OH – Honda East Suzuki of Toledo's rider Eddie Kraft will be riding the all-new Yamaha R1 during the upcoming race season. Kraft enters the year with 21 regional championships, two National Championships and over 80 race wins. He most recently won the WERA North Central 750 Superstock and 1000 Superstock Championships in 2014, aboard a Suzuki GSX-R750.
Honda East's Sales Manager Gabe Miller stated, "When Eddie approached us about switching to the new R1, it was something we were excited to help him with. The bike is an all-new platform from Yamaha, generating plenty of excitement and we’re eager to help Eddie compete for wins on this new machine and represent all the OEM lines Honda East carries. We continually work to offer the best pricing on all our bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, generators and both OEM and aftermarket parts."
"We’re making a big jump," said Eddie. "This will be our first year on a 1000 and it will certainly be a big challenge. Working with Honda East, now in our 8th season together, has genuinely been a dream come true. We couldn’t ask for a dealership that does more for our program than they do. They’ve given us every opportunity to succeed and with our first race just a few weeks away, we’ll have the pedal to the floor to get the new Yamaha R1 ready to go.”
About Honda East: As a family owned and operated Ohio motorcycle dealer, Honda East's philosophy is to treat each customer like a family member, every visit. Our award-winning sales staff will strive to meet and exceed your expectations, whether you are purchasing a new vehicle, calling with a question, picking up a part, or just looking in our shop. Located in Northwest Ohio, Honda East is the #1 ranked dealership in both Ohio and Michigan; offering a full line of sport bikes, cruisers, dirt bikes, ATVs, scooters, watercraft and snowmobiles not only by Honda, but Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia, Indian, Sea-Doo, Ski-Doo, Can-Am, Kymco, Bombardier, Polaris and Artic Cat. Honda East prides themselves on the best out the door deal, period. No games, no hassles.
Witchkraft Racing would also like to thank Pirelli Tires, Yoshimura, GoPro, Dynojet, Motul, Millennium Technologies, Moto Liberty, RS Taichi, Arai Helmets, NGK, Worldwide Bearings, Chicken Hawk Racing, Ballistic Performance Components and Motion Pro. Also Performance Cycleworx, Pit Bull, Sharkskinz, Ohlins USA, Samco, Hammer Nutrition, PopShadow Decals, Spider Grips, M.C. Designs and Andrew Swenson Designs.
For more information on Honda East, visit hondaeast.com. For information on the race team, please visit witchkraftracing.com.
When Riders Discount approached me last year regarding sponsorship, it was during a transition period for our team, leaving a complex and often-dramatic relationship I had been in. Glad to be away from the unnecessary headaches, I wasn't looking for a "replacement" partner, but we came to a nice arrangement and it worked out well for the both of us. They have always had a strong presence in the community and a great team – arguably the best in the industry.
Heading into this year, negotiations were delayed until March where we couldn't come to an agreement for the upcoming season. Unfortunately the timing was such that I had get moving with our program and other partners involved, so while I was excited to grow the relationship with Riders Discount in the upcoming season, we simply weren't able to make it work.
I have enjoyed working with Riders Discount and am very appreciative for their season of support. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again in the future. Our road racing community is a tight-knit one.
Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
This past weekend I did some riding of a different kind - on the ice! What a friggin' blast it was. Thanks to Bob Watson for ...
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
Merry Christmas from all of us at Witchkraft Racing! Note: Photos are from Christmas cards ...
Monday, November 3rd, 2014
Dad and I rolled into Lot G at Barber Motorsports Park around 11am on Wednesday. Chris (Broome) was already waiting ...
Monday, October 27th, 2014
From a press release issued by Honda East of Toledo:October 27, 2014 – Maumee, OH – Honda East ...
Monday, October 6th, 2014
Thank you to Honda East Yoshimura Suzuki, Pirelli, MCJ Motorsports, GoPro, Riders Discount, Dynojet, Motul, Millennium Technologies, NGK, Chicken Hawk, Moto-Liberty, RS Taichi, Shoei, Samco, Worldwide ...
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Monday, April 6th
Honda East Yoshimura Suzuki Finishes Strong at WERA GNF
Monday, October 27th
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WERA ’14, Round 1 – Grattan CCW (Adjustments)
Sunday, May 11th
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