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Friday, December 17, 2004

IN FOCUS: Streetbike Shootout rider Brock Davidson
The first 7-Second run by a streetbike

052600a1.jpg (99190 bytes)Story and photos by Marty Kane

In case you’ve been in a hole for the past week, Brock Davidson entered himself into the history books last weekend at the AMA/Prostar Schnitz Summer Nationals, held in Rockingham, North Carolina.

He became the first rider of a street legal motorcycle, to run into the seven second zone [quicker than 8.00 seconds] in the quarter mile. He did it aboard a 1997 Suzuki Bandit, which is sponsored by Competition Accessories and his own company… B.D.E.

Though Davidson has races as a factory backed rider in the Superbike category, the Streetbike Shootout entry is purely his own effort, and other than a minor parts allowance, he is not given any other support by the OEM.

With his accomplishment, Brock also became the first rider in the Mickey Thompson 7-Second club, which tire manufacturer Mickey Thompson formed to recognize the first seven riders to reach the accomplishment. As the first, Brock will receive a special leather jacket, and took home a rather large (in monetary and physical size) check, for $1,000.

MK: Brock Davidson, now that you’ve run seven seconds… what’s next?

BD: I’m going to make some changes to the bike that I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, but could not until we ran the seven. I could not change anything on the bike, for fear of disrupting my combination that was so close [to running the seven].

MK: Care to divulge what those changes might be?

BD: Well, really… we’re going to do some more changing with the clutch system, and we’re going to try some different wheels. Our goal is to improve traction… because I don’t have enough consistent traction. I lost in Rockingham specifically because of lack of traction.

MK: Let’s talk about Rockingham for a minute… you ran three seven second passes in a row, with .001 between each. You appeared to have a total handle on things, and then all of a sudden you returned to the 8.1’s and lost. What happened?

"When I pushed my nitrous button, the rear tire tried to drive around me"

BD: Believe it or not, I am bright enough not to change one thing on the motorcycle… we left it alone. The same could not be said however for the track… it simply went away as the day got hotter. If you look back through race notes in history, Rockingham is notoriously a tricky track to get down consistently. I think we’ve got it figured out… finally… but too much too late.

The track [surface] temperature on all three 7’s, was between 120 and 130 degrees. When the cloud cover went away later in the afternoon, the track temperature soared to 155 and higher. That’s when I slowed down against Ryan [in the semi-finals], because the bike started into tire spin the minute I hit the nitrous. The track got greasy because of the heat, and I left a black mark all the way down the course.

In the final round, I got Ducky [James Lauer] off the line really good. When I pushed my nitrous button, the rear tire tried to drive around me. I got out of the groove and I lost the round.

MK: All of a sudden your bike is going really quick,. We already know that the Mickey Thompson tire was a huge factor. What else has played a big factor in it?

BD: I got a call from Mike Watt at Ohlins Advanced Suspension Technology. They are a manufacturer of high end shocks and suspension components, and in fact supply every professional road race team with forks and shocks. They wanted to get into motorcycle drag racing, and he knew I could give him the data required, and could come up with a combination that worked. I worked with him previously at Fox Shocks, and two years ago he moved over to Ohlins.

We really worked hard to get the shock setup right, and it really made a huge difference. My first drag pass with it in fact, was a 1.34-second 60’ time, which was the quickest I had ever run before. We knocked a few hundredths off our short times, but more importantly our bike was more stable down track – where it matters. You have more control during acceleration, and that’s where it counts. Once the tire starts to spin, it won’t quit!

The other thing, was that we used a soon to be distributed product that I came up with. It’s called a Clutch Cushion Ring Kit. It basically takes the harshness out of the launch, and improves the consistency of how the clutch works. My bikes have always been fast… but I had a traction problem last year that the Mickey Thompson tire cured this year.

I have always had a problem with the consistency, and now that we’ve got the traction… it really showed us our other weak point. We put the cushion ring kit in just before Columbus, and if you’ll think back, we were cracking off 8-teens like a bracket bike. On Saturday in Rockingham, I went an 8.16, and 8.15, and an 8.14. In Columbus, we ran an 8.10, and 8.09 and an 8.08.

MK: Is the clutch cushion ring kit an internal or external part?

BD: It’s an internal part, which works in conjunction with most standard lockup clutches. It can be made to work on almost any bike. We are currently working on models for the GSXR’s and Hayabusa’s, and Yamaha FJ’s and Kawasaki’s will be shortly thereafter.

If you’ve ever ridden a shootout-style bike with a lockup, they will comment as to much harder the bike is to ride consistently. The kit will also work on wheelie bar bikes, and in fact is one of my speed secrets in my GSX-R750 Superbike.

I have actually had these things done for quite a while, and until I ran the seven, there was no way I would let the lid off of the secret weapon. They will be available shortly from my distributors (Call Schnitz Racing for more information).

MK: So, is that all it takes to run sevens?

BD: Well, there is a whole bunch of lumps you’ve got to go through before you can get close, but there is one more secret weapon that comes out of our shop. They are actually parts that are used by a great deal of people in competition, but nobody wants to tell people they exist for fear of competition.

We manufacture precision nitrous jets, which give consistency and increase engine life by allowing each cylinder to make an equal amount of horsepower. They also

A good example, the guy who’s kicking our butts right now in Superbike, Phil Davis, buys tons of these things from me… and look at how good he’s running!

052600a2.jpg (61482 bytes)
Brock Davidson (left) and

Crew Chief Marc Huelsman

MK: During our P.A. interview together in the tower, you gave a lot of credit to your Crew Chief Marc [Huelsman]. Let’s go back over that.

BD: Over the years, as a tuner and engine builder, you learn to overcome obstacles in one way or another. A great example is Billy Vose, he can overcome obstacles in ways that nobody else can understand, but they just work.

I was sort of doing the same things with cures for my problems. That drove Marc nuts, because he has a degree in mechanical engineering, and in fact works at a research laboratory. He does not like mysteries, and so he got so involved in trying to decipher some of those mysteries, especially with the shock and clutch, that I let him take components and measure them on really sophisticated equipment to find out what the difference was between working and not working.

Now we have a real baseline that allows us to make logical changes. Before we did it by trial and error, and our performance was hit and miss as the result.

MK: Now that you’ve gone 7’s, there are probably about four others who are within a stones-throw of the same performance, right?

BD: Well, honestly… they think they are close. Until I ran the number, I had no idea how much of a difference it made between 8.10 and 7.90’s, until I ran the number. I don’t want to over glorify it, but when you are running as fast as you can go… it’s really hard to go faster. Look at Larry McBride, he’s got the power to run 5.80’s, but he has not been able to do it yet.


052600a3.jpg (130469 bytes)
Brock rides a 1997 Suzuki Bandit 1200, which has been lowered, the rear swing-arm has been replaced with a longer aftermarket unit – designed to reduce wheelies, it’s engine has been bored and stroked to 1500cc, and a fairly exotic nitrous oxide system by Nitrous Express, features Brock's own design "Showerheads". Engine internals have been modified into racing trim, and it is capable of around 300+ true horsepower.

Brock, look into your crystal ball for a minute, will somebody else do it again in the near future?

BD: I believe so, and it will probably happen at Indy or Gainesville. Those are the only two tracks left this season that can probably hold the brute force that some people try to throw at it. Don’t’ get me wrong… we use a lot of brute strength ourselves, but there is a huge finesse as well that goes along with it. Many people have the force, but they don’t understand the other side of the combination. Indianapolis traditionally has been the only track which my Bandit would stay hooked up on the entire time.

Keith [Dennis} will pull it off, regardless if the bike’s ready to do it or not. He’s good like that, and they are close enough to make it count. Dave Stewart is also right there, in fact he ran an 8.02 in testing days before the Rockingham event.

If Ducky [James Lauer] can get his bike to leave the starting line properly, they’ve got more than enough power to make it as well.

MK: We’ve all seen the Streetbike Shootout class advance from the nines, to the eights, and now to the sevens [elapsed time], and ironically you’ve been at the forefront throughout the whole thing. Have we raised the bar high enough now that the average street guy can’t relate to the class?

BD: I don’t think so… because they are still street bikes, and some of us actually still do ride them back at home. It’s all about learning to work with the components that are available, and almost anybody can run mid to low eight’s now with very little effort.

There is a new bike in the class which just came out, that does have me a little concerned because it is a radical departure from a true streetbike, and that’s what we are trying to stay away from. We’re trying to have people associate these things with the bikes they have at home in their garage, and that’s why guys like Gary Wardowski [who runs a stock Hayabusa with a swing-arm and a turbocharger, which runs 8.20’s] are really great for the sport.

MK: As you’ve told us, hitting the eights on a streeter is not very hard because they run nines off the showroom floor. What do you think about people who still race them on the street?

"I've seen too many talented racers get killed street racing, and even more hurt really badly."

BD: I think anybody who street races today is crazy. It’s like playing Russian Roulette, and there are too many things that can go wrong. Of course, I have something to live for these days [wife and family], and I’m not going to go out and get hurt.

I have seen way too many really talented racers get killed street racing, and even more hurt really badly. It just turns my stomach to think about it.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ve done it, but I have never really been big on it. There’s no way you’d catch me doing it these days!

More local drag strips should consider it their responsibility to have grudge nights regularly. Our local track will turn the scoreboards off for anybody who writes N/T [no time] on their fender or back window, and that way people can street race legally and safely.


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