• The Circus Is Coming to Town

    Just a few day from now, one of the great motorsports circuses will arrive on our peninsula. WSBK or more commonly called World Superbike. This circus brings with it more rings than Elizabeth Taylor. Starting Tuesday, the factory big rigs and rider motor coaches will lumber up the “A” road from Highway 68 and sail in on the North-Douth Boundary road, into the sacred ground that is Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

    WSBK is the highest level of production-based motorcycle racing in the world. This series brings out international factory teams: Ducati, Honda, Triumph, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW, Aprilia and the gloriously ignominious MV Agusta.

    They all race 26 times in 10 countries. It is an expensive endeavor. The motorcycles are based on the kind one can pick up at their local showroom and The WSBK rules allow for a few performance and safety changes.

    For example a bike’s engine must be 1,000cc or less and cannot change from the specifications with which it left the factory. Beyond that requirement, anything goes. A stock $12,000 Suzuki becomes a $250,000 Suzuki. Any given stock Suzuki is a fearsome beast that takes a very experienced rider to ride it anywhere near its limitations. Racing is about being on the limit or just enough above it all the time. That’s how these races are won. Talent, finesse, bravery, and razor sharp reflexes are the high standard at this level. Though when a win is possible or near, my personal favorite — just plain crazy takes center stage and becomes the life of the party. More on this part will follow in the next issue.The WSBK Suzuki can only be ridden in anger by very few. The slowest racer in the slowest class of world super bike is faster than any one we are likely to meet in our lifetime. These are very special people. So are all of the support staff this all requires. Mechanics for the hard bits, data engineers for the IMU (Inertia Measurement Units (when you tilt your smartphone to change view from portrait to landscape, that’s an IMU) and other digital telemetry. Individual technicians for tires, suspension, fuel, etc. and etc. The truck drivers tend to be their own show unto themselves. And many a tall tale has been told of magical endeavors from within the secrecy of their 6 million dollar truck, which in theory could hold 8 to 12 bikes and 8 to 12 spare everything. Two or 20 secret bits that the metallurgy and engineering, makes them a modern marvel.

    But, let’s say the bike left the factory with aluminum moving engine parts. Magically they are now made of titanium. Where there was a steel swing arm (a swing arm holds the rear wheel and rear suspension on), there is now carbon fiber swing arm. A stock steel replacement swing.

    The Circus is Coming to Town: Welcome WSBK  arm around $400, a bespoke carbon fiber swing arm, around $25,000. Racing improves the breed. The factory truck is essentially a well-staffed. well-stocked, multi-million dollar movable research and development laboratory. What is learned at the track is implemented there and then, to improve the bike’s performance, to win. These enhancements are sure to trickle down into the production motorcycles, sometimes quicker and more often than one may think.

    The drivers’ motor homes are unto themselves as well. Again, more on this later.

    Lastly, these trucks and buses are all European. They are flown here! I imagine they must have special waivers to be allowed to operate on U.S. roads. Ever seen a Fiat tractor trailer? You just might see one during WSBK.

    Closer to home comes Moto America, America’s premier road racing series, to be enjoyed in next week’s issue of Cedar Street Times.

    You can reach Webster at Webster- Slate@CedarStreetTimes.com. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 8, 2017

    Topics: The Gray Eminence

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