Story and photos by Marty Kane
In case youve 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 youve run seven seconds whats next?
BD: Im going to make some changes to the bike that Ive 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 were going to do some more changing with the clutch system, and were going to try some different wheels. Our goal is to improve traction because I dont have enough consistent traction. I lost in Rockingham specifically because of lack of traction.
MK: Lets 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 8.1s and lost. What happened?
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 weve got it figured out finally but too much too late.
The track [surface] temperature on all three 7s, was between 120 and 130 degrees. When the cloud cover went away later in the afternoon, the track temperature soared to 155 and higher. Thats 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 thats where it counts. Once the tire starts to spin, it wont quit!
The other thing, was that we used a soon to be distributed product that I came up with. Its 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 weve got the traction it really showed us our other weak point. We put the cushion ring kit in just before Columbus, and if youll 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: Its 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 GSXRs and Hayabusas, and Yamaha FJs and Kawasakis will be shortly thereafter.
If youve 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 youve 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 whos kicking our butts right now in Superbike, Phil Davis, buys tons of these things from me and look at how good hes running!
MK: During our P.A. interview together in the tower, you gave a lot of credit to your Crew Chief Marc [Huelsman]. Lets 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 youve gone 7s, 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 7.90s, until I ran the number. I dont want to over glorify it, but when you are running as fast as you can go its really hard to go faster. Look at Larry McBride, hes got the power to run 5.80s, but he has not been able to do it yet.
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. Dont 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 dont 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 bikes ready to do it or not. Hes 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, theyve got more than enough power to make it as well.
MK: Weve all seen the Streetbike Shootout class advance from the nines, to the eights, and now to the sevens [elapsed time], and ironically youve been at the forefront throughout the whole thing. Have we raised the bar high enough now that the average street guy cant relate to the class?
BD: I dont think so because they are still street bikes, and some of us actually still do ride them back at home. Its all about learning to work with the components that are available, and almost anybody can run mid to low eights 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 thats what we are trying to stay away from. Were trying to have people associate these things with the bikes they have at home in their garage, and thats why guys like Gary Wardowski [who runs a stock Hayabusa with a swing-arm and a turbocharger, which runs 8.20s] are really great for the sport.
MK: As youve 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?
BD: I think anybody who street races today is crazy. Its 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 Im 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.
Dont get me wrong Ive done it, but I have never really been big on it. Theres no way youd 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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