Road Atlanta was next up on the schedule. Dad and I made the drive down Wednesday night, arriving Thursday afternoon for Friday practice. We made a stop along the way to visit our buddy Chuck Giachetto, who has been a big help in getting the new R1 setup properly out of the gate. It was good to catch up with him. After that, we met up at the track with Doug and Marion, who drove down separately. Hours before, there were long lines already waiting to get in. The Cycle Jam would be another big event.
Friday practice was uneventful, minus some electrical glitches with the R1 in the first session. After consulting with Flash Tune and more importantly, Gene (Burcham), we had the issue sorted out and were back on our way. Gene test rode the bike in the pits – I think to try and get a feel for how the R1 compared to his. lol.
Saturday's first race, 1000 Superstock. I nabbed the holeshot and led the first six laps. Times were dropping from practice, but local hero Opie Caylor caught me with a couple laps to go, into T6. I had a chance to pass him back on the straight, but wanted to sit back and learn a bit, as he has over 40,000 laps around Atlanta from being an instructor for Kevin Schwantz's school – not counting race laps! Crazy. I was hoping to acquire some education.
Opie was quite good. Smooth and extremely fast. He helped me along, but once he had a few bike lengths, I had a hard time making time on him. He'd end up winning by one second at the checkered flag. Overall I wasn't too disappointed. 2nd place behind a guy like Opie, I'll take. Times dropped into the low 1:31's, setting a new personal best around Road Atlanta, out of 30 or so bikes.
After a bit of a long delay, Formula 1 was next up. It rained in between races, but the track had dried enough, with only a few damp spots. Starting from the 4th row, I had a good launch, but Billy Ethridge took the lead and off he went. Billy is one of the instructors at Danny Walker's American Supercamp, which I took a couple months ago down in Georgia. He's a long-time roadracer and can definitely get around sliding on the dirt, whether on a big or little bike. He's done years of endurance racing in a variety of challenging conditions – and this race was likely right up his alley.
By the time I was up in 2nd place, he had already put a gap on all of us. I was pushing and trying to bridge the gap, but the times just weren't coming. I don't know what it was, but the bike and I just didn't feel strong during this race. Whether the track wasn't fully dry, the tires didn't feel great with the lower track temperatures, or I was just out of it from sitting around for so long, I don't know. Whatever it was, it wasn't one of my better races. I brought it home in 2nd, with a clear gap back to 3rd. Lap times in the 32's.
1000 Superbike was the last race of the day. After a disappointing previous race, I wanted to make this one count. With a good launch, holeshot and a good gap halfway through the first lap, I kept pushing. We would win this race by eight seconds. Our first 1000cc win at Road Atlanta. Billy and I flipped grid positions from this race to the last, so by the time he was up to second, we had a good-sized gap. Times were back into the 1:31's though and I felt much better/more aggressive.
Dinner and some tweaks to the bike Saturday night and we were off to bed. A couple full days in 90+ degree heat can wear you out.
Sunday morning practice went well. The changes we made to the bike were working and we were into fast times right away. The day's National races would be tough though.
1000/Open Superstock was the first race up. From the third row, I had another good launch and was 2nd into T1, behind Billy who had 5-10 bike lengths right away. I plugged along and tried to catch up. I slowly brought the gap down and with a couple laps left, had it down to a few bike lengths. I saw Billy look over his shoulder at one point, but wasn't sure if he saw me.
Approaching the white flag, out of T12, I had a nice drive out on exit and was able to pass Billy into T1. I pushed hard – too hard, running through the dirt up into the chicane twice, and then through the dirt before diving the left-ess – Supercamp style. I threw the bike down on my left knee and quickly kicked my outer foot out, signaling, "Sorry!" to Billy. I tried to tighten things up and run a good last lap, where we'd hold Billy off and take the win by .4 seconds.
That race was work. Billy was moving and we dropped into the 1:30's chasing him for the win. It turned out Billy didn't know we were that close and thought the signs my dad was giving me (a big gap back to third) were for him! Pretty funny.
1000 Superbike was up a few hours later and our last race of the weekend. Again from the third row, I had a strong launch and tucked in right behind Billy going into T1. The two of us would make a break from the rest of the field early on. I knew Billy was quick and looking to win this one, so I latched on during the first lap and drafted him on the back straight, taking the lead before the fast right kink.
We led over the next seven laps and I knew he was right there, by the signs dad was giving on the wall. I figured he was waiting for me to make a mistake or wait until the last lap to make a move. Knowing that, I slowed down the pace into the 1:31 and even 1:32 range. Billy didn't make a move. Wily-vetran he is.
Sadly, I made a mistake with about two laps to go. Coming through T5, I miscalculated the corner and ran wide on exit, up onto the curbing. I rolled off the throttle slightly, looked to my left to see how close Billy was – and by the time I turned my head back, he went rolling by on the right. Dammit.
I gave chase, but now with only a couple laps to go, he was putting the hammer down, back into the 1:30's. I kept up, but didn't have a good place to pass him. On the last lap, I thought I might have a shot into T10A. Nope. I squared off 10B and ran up over the hill and under Suzuki bridge into T12. My only shot was to try and square off the corner and beat him to the line. I got into T12 deep with the front end squirming and rear end dancing along the pavement – closed right up on Billy, late-apexed the corner and pinned it. The R1 started pulling and reeling Billy in, but not before the checkered flag. I went sailing past him after, but it was too late. He'd win by a tenth of a second. If you ask me, that start/finish needs to be further down the straight, for better last-lap passing. :)
Afterwards, we congratulated each other on some great racing all weekend long. Billy's a Georgia guy, so to be running with someone of his caliber, at his track, was something I was proud of. A couple more wins would have made me a little prouder though.
Overall, we had a great weekend. We dropped 1.6 seconds from our previous personal best and really got the new R1 working well. We now need to make a gearing change, along with a couple other changes to the bike, but those are good notes we'll have for next time.
I'm really enjoying being on a 1000 and the transition so far has been a new and fresh challenge. We've had plenty of bumps in the road with the bike, but we've been sorting them out and getting through the new-bike woes.
Thank you to my dad. As always, having him there makes such a big difference in my results. Also thank you to Doug for his help and congratulations on his races, where he had a big smile every time he came off the track – well, except for when his battery died :).
Thanks also to James Bock at Pirelli for taking such good care of us all weekend. He's a top-level tire vendor.
More to come.
Thanks for reading.
From a press release issued by Honda East of Toledo:
June 22th, 2015 – Maumee, OH – Honda East Suzuki of Toledo's rider Eddie Kraft had an outstanding event at Road Atlanta during the WERA Cycle Jam this past weekend. Kraft won two races, most notably the WERA National 1000 Superstock race, along with finishing 2nd in three others against a stacked field of national-level competition.
“We always enjoy Road Atlanta,” commented Eddie. “The track is so much fun and there’s always a great turnout for the Cycle Jam. This was our second event this season on the new Yamaha R1 and we were able to get things sorted out pretty quickly. We went a second and a half faster than we’ve ever gone here which was great. Sure, the extra power helped but we’re currently running a stock motor, trying to focus our efforts on the suspension and electronics.”
Kraft continued, “Between our start at Grattan Raceway last month and now Road Atlanta, hopping onto the 1000 has been a great challenge so far. I’m really looking forward to carrying this momentum into our next race at Pittsburgh International Raceway.”
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, Samco, Hammer Nutrition, PopShadow Decals, Spider Grips, M.C. Designs, Andrew Swenson Designs and Yamaha Motorsports USA.
For more information on Honda East, visit hondaeast.com. For information on the race team, please visit witchkraftracing.com.
Press from this past weekend at the WERA Cycle Jam, held at Road Atlanta.
National Challenge Series results:
Sportsman Series results:
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Going into this season, I knew the first couple months would be a bear. Not just from jumping onto a 1000, or sorting a vast variety of electronic settings I had never dealt with before, ...
Monday, May 11th, 2015
The first race of the season was our first time on the bike since the GNF last October. It was also our first time ...
Monday, April 6th, 2015
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 ...
Thursday, March 26th, 2015
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 ...
Press Releases All
Kraft Builds Momentum, Wins at Road Atlanta WERA Cycle Jam
Wednesday, June 24th
WERA Cycle Jam/National Challenge Race Results From Road Atlanta
Tuesday, June 23rd
Sponsor News All
Wednesday, December 17th
WERA ’14, Grand National Finals – Barber
Monday, November 3rd
Monday, October 6th
Clean Bikes, Happy Bikes
Wednesday, September 17th
WERA ’14, Round 6&7 – Grattan (Beyond the Comfort Zone)
Thursday, August 7th
We Talkin’ About Practice?!
Tuesday, July 29th
WERA ’14, Round 4&5 – Mid-Ohio (Challenging Adversity)
Thursday, July 17th
WERA ’14, Round 3 – Pittsburgh International (Brake Check)
Friday, July 11th
WERA ’14, Round 2 – Road Atlanta (Chasing Thousands)
Wednesday, June 11th
Monday, June 2nd
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Team Challenge 9 comments
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