Racing with CRA at Buttonwillow

There's a new race series in town called California Roadrace Association, operated by Dustin Coyner and the crew that puts on the TrackDaz events in California. When we heard about this new series, I naturally inquired about their willingness to allow electric motorcycles. Not only were they interested to have us out, they even established a "Formula E" class specific for electric motorcycles. So... after the first round was cancelled due to the new track at Buttonwillow not being ready in time (or even at all this year), round 2 in June at the Buttonwillow track we know and love became the new Round 1 for the series. We felt somewhat obligated to be there and do our part to help this fledgling series get off the ground.


Following a successful AFM race at the same track that pointed out some chassis setup areas to work on, we were anxious to get back out with the race-prepped Supersports and see if we'd made any improvements. Luckily, CRA was open to us running in the 600 Supersport class in the Sunday sprint race. There were a couple of caveats though, first - we wouldn't be qualifying on Saturday, so we'd be starting at the back of the Expert grid, second - these are 8 lap races, 2 laps longer than the AFM races, so making the battery last the distance at race pace could become an issue.

Troy leads a rider on a Yamaha R6. They had a good battle, but the R6 rider eventually ran off track, handing the position to Troy. Photo credit: Caliphotography

With our work and family commitments, Troy and I decided to roll the dice and skip both Friday and Saturday practice and roll in on Saturday evening to race on Sunday. The Saturday races are all longer events (16 and 20 laps), and we're not quite there on battery capacity at this point, so it seemed focusing on Sunday's sprint races was a reasonable choice.


Quick mention of what's changed on the bike recently... Since the AFM race, we've dropped the forks in the triples to aid with the quick direction changes and keep the front tire loaded. However, the biggest change on the bike was that we were finally able to run a new 5.5" carbon fiber rear wheel (Yamaha R6 fitment) from our sponsor Thyssenkrupp. This required the bike make a trip up to Ely's shop in Ashland, Oregon to design and fabricate a new underslung rear brake caliper carrier and ensure we had gotten the chain line and wheel centers lined up. Ely turned it around in about a week and a half and my father drove the bike back down just in time to hit the CRA race.

New 5.5 inch carbon fiber Thyssenkrupp rear wheel displays the same amazing build quality as the previous wheels. TK tire warmers complete the package and remind everyone what's so special about what's underneath them... ;)

As I mentioned, the 600SS race would be 8 laps and I was a bit nervous as I knew the pace would be high and we'd only run 7 laps previously (when that F1 race got red flagged) with AFM. Taking a look at the massive amount of data we've collected at the track between v1 and v2, I made some adjustments that I thought would preserve some energy, but still leave Troy with a fighting chance against the 600s. For those that geek out over the technical details... I reduced the base speed setting, dropped the maximum torque, and reduced the ID current. Not by a massive amount, but what I hoped would be enough to finish the race. Troy was reminded what to watch for as an indication that the battery is getting low on the dash.


Starting from the back of about 15 competitors, Troy got a good start and slotted in to P4 into turn 1. Over the course of the opening lap, he got shuffled back to P6 or P7, but I knew we were slightly down on power, so wasn't too surprised. He ended up in a battle for what timing and scoring showed as P6 (I still can't find official results) with the rider behind making a lunge headed into Phil Hill only to lose the position on the exit. With 2 laps to go, Troy came around without the bike on his tail, and we later learned that he ran off track, narrowly missing collecting Troy while trying a pass. While we didn't have anything for the leaders, we did once again show that the bike belonged to be in the race and my power reduction got us to the finish!

Imagine my surprise when reviewing the data, I saw that we went faster with the power reduction than we did when we ran here at full power with AFM. Troy had set a new PB and fastest lap for the Lightfighter of 1'52.9s. That seemed to be an indication that we're headed the right way with the set up and making good use of that super lightweight TK carbon rear wheel. We had the Formula E race next, shortened to 4 laps, later in the day to show what we could do with full power turned back on...


As I mentioned, the organizers set up a Formula E class, but only two bikes showed up - ourselves and a super nice guy named Patrick on a Zero SR/F, who was competing in his first ever race. Since the class was small, they grouped us with another small turn-out - the baggers. Troy gridded himself about six rows back from the other competitors to ensure the closing speed didn't get unsafe. With the bike back to full power, I asked him to treat the race like a qualifying session and see what was possible. Troy was in the lead by the first turn and made it around to lap the last bagger by the end of the race.


I didn't take many videos due to the compressed timing, but here's a flyby from lap 2 of our 4 lap "qualifying session"...

And that last lap as he lapped a bagger on the way to the checkered flag...

When Troy got back to the pits, I downloaded the data and had a look at the times, seeing a new lap record with a 1'51.6, well over a second faster than our previous best earlier in the day! We took our first win in the CRA series and have seemingly made a significant step forward on setup. Ultimately, we need to find our way to a 1'49s lap to challenge the podium of the Supersport races, but I think we finally made a step forward. As always, there are more ideas and things to try, which is why we keep going back...

The end of an action packed day and the inaugural CRA race event. I hope there are more of these in our future!

What Next?

The plan was to carry this momentum into a Laguna Seca race with AHRMA in July and then another AFM, WERA, or CRA event in August. Unfortunately, life's thrown me a bit of a curve ball and we're going to need to pause the race effort during July so I can focus on a serious, but non life-threatening surgery for my wife and making sure I'm there for her as much as she's been there for me throughout the years. She's an amazing woman and I have every expectation that she'll be on the road to recovery in no time. Until then, the bike is back with Ely for safe keeping and further tweaks to be ready for when we can return to racing.


Special Thanks to:


Ely Schless and Joe Wismann for the quick turnaround with the bike!

Troy Siahaan for just showing up and getting straight to race pace with next to no warm-up!

Thyssenkrupp Carbon Components for the amazing new wheels for the bike!

California Roadrace Association for running an awesome first event and including electric motorcycles!

Dunlop Race Tires for hooking us up with some grippy rubber that was much happier with these track temps!


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