If you read my post on the WERA race, you'll know that the Lightfighter v2.0 did pretty well in it's race debut, taking a 1st and 3rd at Buttonwillow Raceway. You'll also know that we left a bit disappointed in our lap times, expecting a step up (down?) in times during the races that never really materialized. This left us scratching our heads and wondering what changes we could test before the season was out to see if we could find this missing pace...
So we signed-up with the A group for a TrackDaz open trackday and started making some changes to test. What exactly did we change on the bike? Here's the list of major changes compared to the setup we ran with WERA:
Suspension. Mike Wheeler and Dan Kyle at Kyle Racing had mentioned in the past that the fork set we're using (FGRT 210) can be extended for additional travel. Bobby Loo mentioned the same during the WERA race weekend, offering that it was a popular change for a lot of fast Supersport riders. Since Troy was still complaining about bump compliance at Buttonwillow, I went ahead and sent the fork set down to Mike at Kyle Racing for this modification to add 10mm to the fork stroke.
More POWER. With the dyno tuning session at Kyle Racing (see that blog post), we were up roughly 10% on power and torque.
Wheels/Tires. We've been running these awesome TK carbon wheels this season. They're great with one exception - they only come in a 6.00" rear rim width, forcing us to run a larger 200 series rear tire vs. the 180 series we ran on v1 of the bike in 2019. To make matters worse, we got our hands on some take-offs from the Ducati Panigale Superleggera V4 in even wider and taller 125/70 front and 200/65 rear. While this combo instilled a lot of rider confidence in grip level, our suspicion was that all that tire was scrubbing corner speed and impeding fast lap times. For this test, we went back to running a 5.5" rear rim with a 120 front and 180 rear tire (still Pirellis of course).
Suspension (again). With the change in #3 above, we lost some rear ride height - precisely 25mm from my measurements. I could get 10 of this back from extending the eyelet on the rear shock, but that left me with 15mm more to find. Luckily, Ely had already machined an alternate set of rear supension bellcrank links before we raced at Laguna Seca earlier this year, and so I installed the -10mm version and cut the difference to 5mm... and what's 5mm between friends? ;)
This was a pretty big list of changes to throw at the bike and rider in a single test, but we had justification for all of them and had very little to lose as we could always fall back to the previous settings if necessary. So... how did it go? In a word - Great!
Straight off the bat, Troy commented on how much lighter and more nimble the bike felt on the narrower tires and rear rim. He could tell that he was giving up some confidence trail braking at high lean angles on the front, but the benefit of a bike you could be inch perfect on and change directions more quickly far outweighed that cost. Additionally, the added travel in the front end had an immediate positive effect as well. We made a minor adjustment on the rear compression and rebound circuits, but other than that - the suspension was feeling pretty dialed in according to Troy.
The changes on peak power and torque were pretty obvious in the data and as you'd expect, the rider didn't complain about having a bit more grunt AND top end. However, I did notice that we weren't using the full rpm range of the motor (up to ~11,000 rpm). I did gear us a bit taller compared to the race based on the torque we picked up on the dyno coupled with my core belief that keeping the chain line effects on suspension to a minimum is a big benefit to handling. That said, we had an option to run the shorter gearing, so we went ahead and threw it on at the end of the day. Standing on the pit wall, I saw Troy flash an enthusiastic "thumbs up" as he went streaking by on his first flying lap with the new gearing. Data confirmed that we picked up some top speed on the straights as well (~138 mph) due to the stronger acceleration. Ok... sometimes the spreadsheets (and the team manager) get it wrong.
Troy finished the test having completed 5 sessions and turning his best ever lap time in practice during a busy trackday, faster than his best lap in the WERA race. We'll still need to make another big step to be competitive with the fastest Supersports that race in AFM and WERA, but we're feeling more confident we can get there after this test.
It's a simple machine, isn't it?! I've always held the belief that the simplest designs are often the most difficult to come to. Without that battery pack stuck in the middle of the chassis (i.e. the "fuel tank"), the Lightfighter would be as sparse and simple with it's bodywork removed as a two-stroke race bike from the 70's...
Now we face the grueling winter months of the off-season where we ponder what might be in the cards for next season... ;)