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Racing in the AMA, Who Would Have Imagined It?

By Chris Van Andel, Race Support Manager, Motion Pro

It was not my intent to be an AMA Pro Racing team owner. Really, it wasn't. My job at Motion Pro keeps me very busy, and my love of road racing as a fan, a mechanic and a racer fills up the rest of my time.

The Motion Pro motto is "We Ride, We Wrench, We Race." Maybe in my case I should add "We Get Involved in Projects Way Beyond any Sane Person's Common Sense." Probably wouldn't read too well on an advertisement though.

Sorry if I have confused you so far. This all started a few weeks ago just before the Barber Motorsports round of the AMA Pro road racing season. Tony Meiring has been supported by Motion Pro for much of his racing life, since he was about 10 years old. Tony was notable by his debut in pro racing, when he was hired by the factory Kawasaki Road Racing team, and had excellent results as a rookie. Motion Pro has always done as much as possible to support him, and I have always considered him to be a personal friend.

I called him before the Barber round to wish him good luck, as he had a terrible experience at Daytona a few weeks before, blowing up three engines in practice, getting taken out by a ghost riding bike on the third lap of the Daytona 200 race, and then returning to the pits to find that his wallet and watch were stolen.

The only way was up; I said on his voice mail, I know you will do great. Have a safe flight, and a great race weekend. Call me when you get back. Then I hung up, looking forward to hearing back from him with good news when he finished the weekend. My phone rang back almost immediately. It was Tony, and he had had more bad news. For several reasons his season had come to an early end. He was now without a ride for the near future. But he was determined, he was going to take a bike he had in his garage, a bone stock 2007 Yamaha R6, and build it into a race bike and go it on his own. This is what I love about Tony. He has had hard times in racing that would have made many other riders give up, but he is always determined to continue, and show what he can do.

I told him that I would do what I could, and make a few phone calls. I had no idea what would come of my offer. The first few calls complicated things. The advice I was given was that if Tony was going to race AMA Supersport, he had to have a 2008 model bike. A couple more phone calls and a few days gave us an opportunity to trade the 2007 bike for a 2008 model, with the help from Yamaha and Mach 1 Motorsports, a local dealership in Vallejo, California. At this point, we had missed the Fontana round of the series, and it was two weeks to the Infineon round here in Northern California. Could I build a national level Supersport bike in two weeks? There was only one way to find out.

With help from Ohlins USA for the suspension, Rodney Rayborne from HALOF Racing for engine work, HALOF Racing for engine work, Vortex Racing for many different parts, and Bazzaz Performance for the engine electronics, we had the hard parts to get the bike finished. Working in my little garage from home, and receiving the engine and suspension parts only two days before the event, we only had two very long nights to get the bike assembled and prepped. We were supposed to leave on Wednesday afternoon to get to the track, and we finished the major work on the bike at 4:00 that afternoon. Thursday morning was promoter practice, and we needed all the time on the track that we could get, since Tony had never even sat on the bike, much less ridden it. We finished some minor small items in time to send him out for the 11:00 am session, and he put it in gear to go, only for the engine to quit. In my rush, I had forgotten to jumper out the missing kick stand switch! With that fixed, Tony was away, and I crossed my fingers. Would the bike run? Would anything fall off? We were taking a huge gamble, running at the professional level against teams that have had three races under their belt already, not to mention a complete off season's worth of testing.

Nothing fell off, the engine was strong, and Tony went well, considering he had never been on the bike before. He was used to Formula Extreme level motorcycles, with special wheels, slick tires, special suspension, and heavily modified engines. As the practice day went on, we got faster and faster, and developed the bike more and more.

Friday was the day that would tell the tale. We had several practice sessions, and qualifying for Formula Extreme, which we were running in addition to Supersport to get some more time on the bike, and hopefully make the bike more competitive. Again, the day went well, and we went faster every time we went out. The goal in practice is to go fast enough to make it into the A group qualifying session, so that we could get a tow from the fast factory guys. Missed it by that much... We were assigned into the B session, the fastest rider in that group. This means that we had no fast guys to try to get a tow from. He ended up second fastest and qualified 16th for the race.

Saturday was even busier, with practice, the warm up for Formula Extreme, Supersport qualifying, and then the Formula Extreme race. Each session we went better, we were making changes to the bike, and making Tony more comfortable, and faster. Dave Moss from Catalyst Reaction Suspension was a huge part of this, managing all of the suspension tuning changes, and doing an awesome job for us.

Supersport is a much deeper field than FX for rider talent, and we were once again in the B group. Tony rode the wheels off the bike, and we qualified 22nd. Still we could only be happy that he was going as well as he was.

The FX race was up next, and as the green flag dropped, Tony had an excellent start and moved up a few positions even before the first turn. The race went very smoothly, and Tony made up a few more spots, and finished 12th. As far as I know, he was the first finishing Supersport spec bike to finish the race. To us, it felt almost like a win, we were all very happy with how everything went.

Sunday morning came, and we were in the home stretch for the weekend. We had just one warm up session in the morning, and the Supersport race late in the afternoon. The warm up went well, and we went faster than we had all weekend, dropping down into the low 1:41 lap times, but this was still a long way off from the front pace, where Ben Bostrom set a new Supersport lap record in qualifying of a 1:36.7!! Most of the day was spent working on the bike, and watching the other races. There was a shocking moment in the Superstock race, right before the Supersport race, where Jason Pridmore, another Motion Pro supported rider, suddenly experienced an engine failure at the exit of Turn 5, and was rammed from behind by Lee Acree, who had nowhere to go. The video on the monitor was horrifying to watch, but luckily both escaped serious injury, with a concussion for Pridmore, and a compound fracture of the leg for Acree. Get well soon, both of you!

Our final race of the weekend was up next, and we did the whole start procedure like we were old hands at it. Thankfully, the race was much less eventful than the previous Superstock race, and Tony moved up 5 spots to finish 17th.

In looking back at the weekend, we had nothing to complain about. We qualified without problems for both of the races we entered, not an easy feat in itself. Tony moved forward in both of his races, and rode safe and smoothly. The bike got better every time we went out, and performed great. Now it has just over 500 miles on it, almost time for the break in service!

We are ready for more, unfortunately, we don't have the budget to make it out to the next round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, but we will be back for the July Laguna Seca round that the AMA shares with the MotoGP circus. We are both very much looking forward to that weekend, and we are working hard on securing sponsors for the 2009 season. See you at the races!

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