Dad and I rolled into Lot G at Barber Motorsports Park around 11am on Wednesday. Chris (Broome) was already waiting for us with his rig, where we'd be staying for the next several days. We hung around, played NBA Jam and watched some movies; before WERA officials came down to start taking money for our wrist bands.
The process for getting into the track was a mess. Last year Barber management had everyone ordered and lined up, but this year – it was dash to the gate. We were parked close, second in line. After they opened the gate, we went down and grabbed the same spot we did last year in the lower paddock. Even then, it was chaos. They should do assigned parking, although I don't see that ever happening. Either way, we took the next couple hours to get both of our pits setup.
Thursday morning included two rounds of practice and the final round of the WERA National Endurance Series – ever. WERA was stopping the endurance series altogether, as sprints had become more popular. Chris and I elected to do it as practice for the races (since we didn't come the weekend before, as we had during GNF Mancation 1.0 and 2.0), so we asked Steve Palella to join us, warning him of the high expenses and risks of endurance racing. He didn't blink an eye before saying yes.
Practice was uneventful. I hadn't ridden since the Grattan round a month or so earlier, so I was looking to shake the rust off as quickly as possible. For the endurance, I'd be starting off the race, with Steve second and Chris going third. Chris went last, as we needed to swap from GP to standard-shift for him, so flipping the shift rod around as few times possible made the most sense. My dad and Dave Moss were helping in the pits. Dave helped us at Grattan and was a great resource to have. This weekend would prove more of the same.
The start of the race was exciting. We were back on the 11th row, but after a few laps, we were up into 5th overall, and a bit later, right behind 4th – all endurance regulars. It was hard to fight the sprint-racing mindset, but I wanted to go the full 40 minutes without issue. 4th place and I would play the accordion game as we diced through lap traffic. I maybe should have pushed a little harder, but the goals of the race were to have fun – not worry about position. One positive note was that during the stint, I went down to less than half a second off my personal best around Barber. Definitely encouraging.
With Steve and Chris taking their turns, and then going through the rotation again, we finished 8th overall, out of 22 teams. Steve came in early in his first stint, not trusting our estimations on fuel mileage, and then asking about ghostly-engine noise during a red flag in his second. Dad and Dave joked that he was making up excuses simply to avoid doing more than 10 laps at a time. Overall though, both he and Chris rode well for their first times on the bike. Had we some more time together and a more serious pit strategy, we'd definitely be more competitive.
We all celebrated by going out to Jim and Nick's for a BBQ dinner per usual. Doug McCracken even showed up, making for a long table of bench racing.
Friday's races were going to be extremely competitive, with fast locals, along with national level talent coming from as far as Oregon and down as far as Florida and Texas. We mounted up some fresh Pirelli's and with a couple minor changes to the bike from dad and Dave, were ready to go.
750 Superstock was up first. Gridded on the front row, we were second into T1 behind wicked-fast Jimmy Merck. I was able to get by him on the brakes into T5 and take the lead. From there, we led the next five of eight laps. Dad was showing the sign that someone was right on our tail, which I had no doubt. I kept pushing, but was passed by Brandon Cleland (quick AMA/CMRA guy) and equally-fast Devon McDonough (AMA guy, OMRRA #1 plate holder). I latched onto the back of them, but couldn't find a place to pass, and would finish behind Devon by half a second at the line. Brandon didn't qualify for the GNF, as he hadn't done a WERA race, so that bumped us up to 2nd place. Behind us, the gap to the next bike was 4-5 seconds of the 20 or so bike grid.
In post-tech, WERA officials told us to head over to the main tech building. The top five went over there and Vic Fasola (former, famed AMA wrench) was marking engines for teardown later in the weekend. We got marked and headed back to the pits.
Back under the canopy, we were all pretty stoked. Broome asked if I saw what kind of times I was doing during the race. I hadn't run the lap timer because our recent fork height change didn't let the lap timer bracket to fit. I gave him a quizzical look. He looked excited, saying we got down to a 1:30.4. This was 1.8 seconds faster than our previous personal best. Nice. After our huge struggles last year, this was refreshing news, but still not enough. Aside from Cleland who didn't qualify for the race, we set the next-fastest time overall. Still, Cleland was dropping the hammer.
Results can be seen here:
750 Superbike was up next. We had put on a new rear tire for the first race and afterwards, saw it jump in pressure higher than normal (around 5psi). We bled it down and headed into the second race. As it would turn out, we bled it down a little too much.
Starting from the 3rd row, we had a good launch and was in 3rd place heading into T1. Behind Gio Rojas and Rob McLendon, I was able to pass them, diving deep on the brakes, to take the lead. With the front-end protesting up and down, and the brakes trailed deep, I stood the bike up slightly, running wide, where Dave (Grey) went underneath to take the lead. Starting from the front row, Dave was riding strong. I was able to get back by him going into T6 and retake the lead.
Similar to the first race, we led four of eight laps this time. Our pace was a few tenths slower though unfortunately – wrong direction. We would finish 2nd again in this national finale, getting beat by McDonough (and Cleland, technically). A late lapper spread us out where I had hoped to make some sort of pass attempt on Devon during the last lap. Instead, I narrowly missed hitting the back of the lapper, which made for a pucker moment and a couple seconds of added gap, come the finish line. Miles Thorton finished a few seconds behind us. Overall, solid results amidst a 25+ bike grid. Results can be seen here:
We realized after this race that the rear tire pressure was too low. We shouldn't have bled it down so far after the first race. The rear end was sliding around a bit in that one. With Chris, Lora, Dad and Livengood, we headed out to dinner. Mexican.
Saturday morning practice was uneventful. We were near the top of the time sheets, which was good – but facing the big bikes today. A pleasant surprise was seeing Eric (Johnston), who we hadn’t seen in a few months. We had talked a couple days prior and he said he wouldn’t be able to make it out this year, but he ended up being able to make it anyway, and it was great to hang out again.
First race was 1000/A Superstock. Fast guys in this one. We got the holeshot and led for the first third of a lap, before Tim (Bemisderfer) went by on his GSXR-1000. I followed him for a lap or two, gaining in certain areas – getting gapped in others. Then I was passed again. And again. And again. Each time by a 1000. Our whole pack was nose to tail. In fact, our lap times were slower than we had done the day before, but I couldn't get by. We'd finish 6th out of 31 bikes – all 1000's, and have five seconds back to 7th. Frustrating race. Results here:
With only Formula 1 remaining, dad, Moss and I decided to make a big change. Come race time, the change wasn’t better – in fact, it was worse. We had a good start from the 3rd row, 3rd into T1 I believe, but slowly went backwards. Lap times were slower and we finished 8th.
After the race, I was surprisingly not too down about it. We made a gamble, it didn't work. I was more frustrated with the first race than anything. I wanted to get into some 29's and simply didn’t make it happen.
After getting out of the leathers, dad and I took Abbey over to the tech area, where Vic (Fasola) was doing teardowns. We took things apart, he looked over everything – and we passed. Even knowing the bike was legal, there was a small amount of nervous energy. Mark (Junge) was nearby and said to let him know if there were any issues – but everything was good. I wish WERA did more teardowns like this.
Sadly, we didn't stay for Sunday. Chris, Lora, dad and I were depressed as we packed up. The end of another GNF, GNF 3.0 this time, came to an end. Overall, we had a week together. Did an endurance race, ran in sprints, dropped nearly two seconds and left with finishing 2nd Nationally in two of the biggest classes in the country. I felt the best on the bike that I had all season. Dragging toes all over the place, I felt aggressive and smooth and didn’t want the event to end. Overall, a great week/weekend.
Thank you to Dave Moss for all his help in bike setup over the four days. Also a big thank you to Chris and Lora for hosting us yet again. And lastly, a very sincere thank you to my dad. He didn't race the GNF, partially to help me – and I really benefited from it. All these guys winning races at this level have strong support and having him there totally shows in the results we had.
More updates to come. I'll share some thoughts from this season, comparing the 750 to the R6.
From a press release issued by Honda East of Toledo:
October 27, 2014 – Maumee, OH – Honda East Yoshimura Suzuki rider Eddie Kraft finished with two second place finishes during the Pirelli/WERA Sportsman Series National Championships, in both the 750 Superstock and 750 Superbike winner-take-all races, during the 42nd WERA Grand National Finals held at Barber Motorsports Park.
Kraft led three of four races entered at one point, including the 1000 Superstock race; ultimately finishing 6th, aboard his Pirelli-shod, MCJ-Motorsports sponsored Suzuki GSX-R750's. Prior to the weekend, the Michigan-based rider won the WERA North Central 750 Superstock and 1000 Superstock class championships.
“I’m not sure second place is much to brag about”, joked Eddie. “We love coming to this event though, as it brings the best competition from all over the country to race head to head at the end of the season. We kept plugging away all week and went faster while running up front – something everyone on the team was proud of.”
Kraft further states, “After running similar times as the leaders in the 1000 Superstock race, we were losing ground over the course of the race to the bigger bikes, so we made a gamble heading into the Formula 1 race, but it didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped. Overall though, we had a solid event and great season – and I’m looking forward to coming back next year to have a shot at further improvement. Thank you to my dad and Dave Moss for their help all weekend long – both Honda East Yoshimura Suzuki’s were on rails. Joe has sacrificed his own riding much of this year, which made this all possible and is something I sincerely appreciate.”
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 Suzuki, Yamaha, 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.
About Yoshimura R&D of America: Yoshimura is “The Leader in Performance” and has been for more than 55 years. With unmatched skills, knowledge, and passion for racing, Yoshimura is on the forefront of the aftermarket exhaust industry. Yoshimura pipes are race bred and feature the same legendary performance, fit and quality that has been their trademark for more than five decades. To learn more about Yoshimura and view their wide variety of performance products, visit www.yoshimura-rd.com.
Witchkraft Racing would like to thank their 2014 sponsors: Pirelli Tires, MCJ Motorsports, GoPro, Riders Discount, Dynojet, Motul, Millennium Technologies, NGK, Chicken Hawk, Moto Liberty, RS Taichi, Shoei Helmets, Samco, WWB, Ballistic Performance and Motion Pro. Also Ohlins USA, Pit Bull, Sharkskinz, PopShadow Decals, MC Designs, Spider Grips, Hammer Nutrition, Performance Cycleworx, Andrew Swenson Designs and Dave Moss.
For more information on Honda East, visit hondaeast.com. For information on Yoshimura, visit yoshimura-rd.com. And for news on the race team, please visit witchkraftracing.com.
Photo by Lori Sparacio
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 Bearings, Ballistic Performance, Motion Pro, Pit Bull, Sharkskinz, Andrew Swenson Designs, PopShadow Decals, MC Designs, Spider Grips and Hammer Nutrition.
The 2014 season isn't over, but I just wanted to reiterate how much all of this support has meant.
Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Things have been busy lately, sorry for the lack of updates. We've been working on bikes and babies. I missed out on ...
Thursday, August 7th, 2014
With rounds six and seven next up on the WERA schedule, we arrived at the Grattan ...
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
From a press release issued by Honda East of Toledo:...
Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Mid-O. Ohhh Mid-O. Two years in a row now we've struggled here. Lack of track time has been an issue ...
Press Releases All
Honda East Yoshimura Suzuki Finishes Strong at WERA GNF
Monday, October 27th
Honda East Yoshimura Suzuki Win Four @ Grattan Raceway
Wednesday, August 6th
Sponsor News All
WERA ’14, Round 4&5 – Mid-Ohio (Challenging Adversity)
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WERA ’14, Round 3 – Pittsburgh International (Brake Check)
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Wednesday, June 11th
Monday, June 2nd
WERA ’14, Round 1 – Grattan CCW (Adjustments)
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Itching and Itching
Wednesday, March 12th
GoPro and WKR (and Fruit!)
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RS Taichi / Moto Liberty
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A Third Wrist Surgery
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