Over the winter, I hacked out a story on a project bike we have been working on at the Underdog Racing Shop in Ohio. If you didn't read the story, then this one may have you a bit lost. To get brought up to speed,
click here for the initial ZX Files article.
In a nut shell, the bike is a bone stock 1999 ZX-9R with a pipe and jet kit. (So we could hear if it was running or not) The bike was fitted with all the usual trinkets required by a competitive Super Gasser. Slick and bars, air shifter, 2 step, shift light, a throttle stop timer and a Co2 set up for the shifter.
The goal for this project was to keep it simple and easy. Steve travels alone and was tired of the starter carts and pit bike required to tow the old bike around. He always had trouble getting crew help and hates working on the bikes. He just wants to race and have fun.
Steve Weatly, a Union Electrician by trade, is a former Super Gas Champion in both IDBA and Prostar. His home has pictures, plaques, plates and magazine articles plastered on every wall in every room. You would never guess, by looking and talking with him that he is 48 years old. He has well over 30 years of riding experience and about 25 drag racing motorcycles. He is no rookie and no slouch. This is what makes the end result of this story most difficult to understand.
The bike took us quite a bit of time to get right. I rode the bike at IDBA Norwalk last year for tuning and working out some final bugs. We went a best of 9.72 short shifting it with lean carburation and a clutch set up that was still way off. A couple weeks later we rode it at our home track finally getting the clutch perfect and the jetting closer. We still need to dyno it and check air/fuel ratio.
I added the throttle stop timer, tied to a rev limiter, and our Underdog Racing Automatic Shifter perfected in the early 90's over the winter. The bike was ready to rock in Super Gas.
The best part is you put the key in it, ride it up to the line, run a consistant 9 second pass, ride it back to the trailer. Between round maintenance includes getting a cold drink from the cooler. I mean nothing to the bike is done. The tire holds pressure all winter as well as the Co2 shifter. I know, we left it on. If you want to get picky, you do have to punch some numbers into the throttle stop occasionally.
All that was needed now was for Steve to get some seat time on the new bike. In the past 3 years he hasn't been able to race much. No crew kept him away from racing his old bike much. I had been too busy blowing up Superbike motors to help him very much. His old KZ is a great bike and he rode it well. It is long and low like most traditional drag bikes.
The new bike is a totally different animal. It is short, tall and twitchy. The stock wheel base along with a steep steering head angle wasn't taking well to Steve's sit up riding style. You can almost do a tap dance on the seat of the old bike while launching it. Steady as a rock. Turn your head to the side on the ZX and you are turning the bike that way. You have to ride it like you are a statue. Of course this is good advice for anyone on any drag bike. But, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. He was getting it though.
At he first race in Gainesville, he had me digging into the clutch trying to figure out why the 60 footers went up 3 tenths. We later discovered at the second race the auto shifter was tripping during his burnout, and he was leaving the line in 2nd or 3rd gear. I was surprised it left the line at all. He went 9.87 in Atlanta's final qualifier and breakout of 9.88 in eliminations. He forgot to look back... rusty...
In Houston, he was finally having fun. The bike was very consistant as promised. He entered Pro ET for extra seat time, along with Super Gas. He made about 10 passes that weekend. Just what we needed. Almost every pass was between 9.88 and 9.92. Usually 140 mph.
The sixty foot times were right where we wanted them as well. A sluggishly consistant 1.45. This would help ensure consistency. I could get the bike to pull 1.3s and run mid nines, but why? So we could put more time in the throttle stop? Chance spinning the tire? He wanted a Super Gasser, and he wants to win. I think the set up is close to perfect. The slower than average sixty footers with higher than average speed lets you come from behind in most cases, except for the guys with the 8 second 9.90 bikes.
9.904 during the second round of qualifying put him in the number one position. Steve was smiling ear to ear during our Friday and Saturday night pool parties at the Hampton. He thanked me sincerely, for all my hard work and patience with the bike. Our other friend, Kenny D. was #1 in Top Gas as well. I qualified #1 in Friday's first round and parked my bike. Then I went my first ever 7 second passes Saturday on the Quick 1 Racing Top Eliminator. It was the start of a great weekend. It even ended a great weekend for most of us.
Steve however, didn't have a good day Sunday. He didn't even get the chance to do the number one hula dance on the track during the opening ceremonies. He didn't get the picture taken he wanted.
Round one eliminations in Pro ET came up first on raceday morning. I was not up at the line, but our friends were video taping him.
Steve went into the water box but there was very little or no water. Or he didn't back up far enough depending on who you ask. He could have got the official's attention to give him some water, but he decided to try and do his burnout without the water. This bike really requires almost no burnout anyway. Just a little clean up of the tire.
He remembers the bike hopping a couple times, taking off and seeing the ground coming at him. What really happened in about 1 second was he launched the bike hard into the rider sitting in the pre stage beams. He hit him hard enough to knock his rear tire off the bead, and I would guess ending his weekend as well. Steve is VERY sorry about the racing accident. He feels terrible. He didn't know he hit anyone. His head hit the ground pretty hard. We don't even know who he hit. It was a ZX-12 I'm told.
Later that week, he brought me the bike and a blank check. "Can you have it fixed for Rockingham? I want to race if my shoulder gets better in time."
The impact shoved the wheel back about 2 inches, bending the forks. Then you have the usual effects of when one of these plastic coated crotch rockets hits the ground. Body damage. He spent a grand in one second. Even my two teenage daughters can't do that!
I guess the moral of the story is be careful out there. Things happen fast, even to experienced riders. Good safety equipment saved his body, now we have to heal his pride... Rockingham!