Updated: Sep 25, 2021
With my wife's surgery a success (whew!) and her well along the road to recovery, we were able to take a peek at the racing calendar to look for an opportunity to get back to racing. The CRA race seemed too soon to get ready for, but the AFM round in September was a hard conflict for Troy - so we decided to go for CRA Round 2 at our "home" track of Buttonwillow Raceway. After a good showing in Round 1 (see blog post), the organizers agreed to officially allow us race in the 600 Supersport and 600 Superbike classes. They also moved the Formula E class to Saturday and dropped the lap count to 5 laps from 8 with the hope of encouraging more (production-based) electric bikes to come out to play.
While this race ran at a track we are very familiar with, it was run in an alternate configuration that is rarely run with the elimination of the Phil Hill corners (highlighted) in order to make a very long straight (~1000m). The track was also run in the opposite (CCW) direction from the typical race direction. These changes necessitated some changes to gearing to be competitive with the gas bikes down the long back straight. As a reminder, CRA runs 2 laps longer races than other typical clubs that we race with, which tends to require slightly de-tuning the motorcycle performance in order to make the full race distance.
Due to prior family commitments for both Troy and myself, the decision was made to attend this event with very little opportunity for practice. We skipped the qualifying sessions and the electric only Formula E class race on Saturday (the well-deserved win went to Patrick McBride on his Zero SR/F) and completed two 10 minute rounds of practice on Sunday before the 600 Supersport race. Based on the lack of time to test, I made some assumptions on final gearing, which seemed to be good during the practice, and motor controller settings to get us to the end of the 8 lap (~24 mile) race. Bobby Loo from Motorrev Suspension Tuning was on hand to make a couple of quick adjustments for Troy as well. Things were looking pretty good with the gearing selection, with Troy posting well over 150mph GPS speeds on that long straight and able to keep up with all but the fastest 1000cc Superbikes he was running with in practice. It was clear the motor was getting a good work-out, but at least the temperatures were expected to be a bit cooler (in the 90s) than typical for August at Buttonwillow.
Without qualifying on Saturday, Troy started at the back of the expert field (11 riders), but made it up to P2 going into Turn 1 from the start. Even with the taller gearing, the Lightfighter was still able to make a monster launch off the line and sailed past gas bikes that were bucking and wheelie-ing as riders managed their clutch release to varying degrees of success.
Video of Troy holding on to 3rd overall down the front straight on lap 2...
The top two riders in this class were significantly faster than us, so once they got clear track, they cleared off. However, Troy was very evenly matched on lap time and pace with the rider in 4th position and they proceeded to have a tight battle throughout the 8 lap race. Troy lead until the last couple of laps, and ultimately finished in 4th position only 4 seconds back from a podium finish.
Reviewing the data from the race, we saw a GPS top speed of 157.8mph on lap 1 with the help of a bit of a draft down that long straight. Still - that's the fastest speed we've seen with the Lightfighter thus far and alleviated my fear that our competitive edge would be somewhat dulled on faster tracks. Troy did what he does best and dropped time from a 1:55 in the morning warm-up to a 1:52.2 in the race. Not too shabby for the only electric in the field...
And so things were looking good for the 600 Superbike race coming up later in they day until... they weren't. This event was also the first event with a new battery cell from our friends at Farasis Energy. With this new cell, I needed to make some guesses on our settings and the new track configuration we were running didn't help. Long story short is that I overshot the settings somewhat and damaged a few of these cells. Not wanting to risk any more damage to the pack or bike, we packed it in and unfortunately cut our race day short.
I still count this event as a "win" and we've got a full 8 laps of high speed race data to review and figure out how to make the bike better. We're getting more competitive with each outing and we've got a couple of events in October that look like good candidates to test those further improvements...
Oh yeah! This race was also the debut race for some new custom Lightfighter branded Alpinestars Tech-Air leathers! We were told the only other rider who has leathers with this carbon-look material is Keanu Reeves, so I'd say Troy's in pretty good company there!