What a difference half a year can make! On October 23rd and 24th, we were back at Buttonwillow Raceway to compete in the final round of the AFM race season. This provided the ideal opportunity to bookend our performance at the same track, with the same series, and in the same race classes as we ran 6 months earlier at the start of the season. If you want a refresher on how that first AFM event went for us, you can find that post here.
We rolled into this race knowing that we'd made some gains over the season in a few areas - namely suspension set-up and a small performance increase due to some additional 10-12% capacity in the battery that allowed us to turn the dials up a bit. On the suspension front, our friend Bobby Loo at Motorrev Suspension Tuning was able to work his magic with the valving predominantly on the front fork to get a front end that was a bit more compliant on the small bumps and provide the feel and feedback lost when we switched over to the harder carcass of the Dunlop tires at the start of this season. Regarding the battery, having a bit more in the tank allowed me to play with some motor settings to get about 10% more peak torque and power to the ground. The peak power fades a bit with the voltage over the course of the race, so this allows for an offset.
With the frantic pace of our previous races this season or just the fact that Bobby wasn't in attendance, we left it until the end of the season to try a change to the valving on the shock, which required it's removal and enough time for Bobby to rebuild it and me to reinstall. With the positive change on the front, it became very clear during the practice sessions that the movement of the chassis was now unbalanced front to rear. Bobby, once again, was right on the money with the change, and the bike was finally offering Troy both the bump compliance and the overall composure to provide a bit more confidence and feedback. Rad.
During our Saturday practice sessions, Troy mentioned a strange behavior with the bike we hadn't experienced before - basically a "stutter" or quick loss of power at the end of the longer straights. Pouring through the data logged on the Motec CDL2 data logger dash, I was at a loss to explain what was going on. There were no obvious faults that pointed to a problem. I tried some setting changes in the event that the motor speed limit was kicking in too soon with this gearing. I recalibrated the resolver - although it ended up back where it had been previously. Running out of options and available practices to test prior to qualifying, I called Ely to talk through what was happening. "It's kind of a long shot... but didn't you say that master start switch was acting funny? It could be failing." It wasn't the strongest theory, but it was the only thing I hadn't checked and the only thing I had time to fix prior to qualifying. I spliced the switch into a known good switch that turns on the water pump and 12V fans in the battery and buttoned the bike back up with minutes to spare to qualifying. Troy got out and ran without issue in qualifying and set a time good enough for 10th on the grid, about half way through the field. Whew!... team work makes the dream work.
The start of the Formula 1 race. Troy is on the third row, second from left. You'll see the bright orange of the Lightfighter's fairing rocket forward shortly after the start.
Troy initially held 3rd place after a great start and solid first lap (another area we saw big improvement). In the video below, he comes across in 3rd, but you can see the freight train of riders behind that would eventually rough him up and push past to relegate us back to 10th. Still, we were in the middle of this competitive battle the full race distance, set a PB lap for Troy and the Lightfighter around Buttonwillow (a 1'51.4) that was 2.5s faster than our previous best lap from this race back in April, where we finished 14th.
Another season, another huge step forward for the Lightfighter program. I mean come on... branded hats, t-shirts, and leathers?! It's been fun to see the progress and reflect back on how far we've come over these past 2.5 seasons (2020 only counts as a half season for obvious reasons).
What's in store for next season?
That's always the question as the season winds down... What next? We've got plenty of opportunities to improve and it looks like there will be plenty of options to race with CRA having their first full season, AHRMA offering more West Coast rounds (Laguna Seca in July!), and AFM obviously providing their usual world-class level of competition. We're working on an updated bodywork package, our first customer bike, and a few other exciting things that are a bit too early to start bragging about in case they don't pan out.
Thanks to all who continue to support us and read these posts. It's not always easy to keep pushing, but you all give us the spark to keep going. Hope everyone has a nice holiday season with family and keep watching this space for updates! - Brian.