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Erik Buell Racing first AMA Pro SuperBike win
14-11-2012 - Are Danny Eslick and Geoff May on track to give Erik Buell Racing its first AMA Pro SuperBike win?
Are Danny Eslick and Geoff May on track to give Erik Buell Racing its first AMA Pro SuperBike win?
The numbers don’t add up. That’s the consensus around the AMA Pro SuperBike paddock regarding chassis specifications of the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS. Twenty-two degrees of rake and 86mm of trail are simply too radical; the big Twin shouldn’t be competitive. But the factory EBRs ridden by Danny Eslic...
Officially, EBR is only a few years old. But its namesake, Erik Buell, has been racing since the early 1980s, and the company he founded back then was dedicated to racing the motorcycles that he built. So, in its heart, EBR is actually 30 years old. And today, it has arguably reached its zenith, no longer lost in the woods of corporate decisions driven by fiscal-quarter profits.
This focused passion has already shown dividends. Eslick and May have both reached the podium this season, each rider having recorded a third-place finish at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California—Eslick on Saturday and May on Sunday.
The EBR 1190RS is the most stunning motorcycle ever manufactured under Erik Buell’s guidance. It’s a true, top-line contender for looks, innovation and performance, taking on the world’s best without excuses, exceptions or grading on a curve. And the 1190RS succeeds by doing it the Buell way, not by aping.
EBR competes in AMA Pro SuperBike with a two-rider team that operates as two one-rider teams—another Buell anomaly. Officially, May rides for Team Amsoil/Hero, while Eslick pilots the Team Hero 1190RS. To learn more about these two teams, I spoke with the riders and their crew chiefs during the AMA Pro race weekend this past June at Barber Motorsports Park.
EBR’s original factory rider, Geoff May, has been on the 1190RS since the team’s inception; before that, he raced the SuperBike version of the 1125R. Replacing Michael Tijon as crew chief in 2012 is Mike Fitzgerald, well-known in the AMA paddock for his suspension-tuning proficiency. How does this Buell compare to the Suzuki GSX-Rs that May raced from 2001 to 2010?
“The EBR feels completely different,” May replied. “I charge the corner. I use lots of trail braking. Now, on the 1190RS, I can do that even better. I can tighten the radius of the corner after I’m in it. Unlike every other racebike, the whole bike squats, giving it the right pitch for turning. It’s due to the idler gear on the chain. It squats the rear when the front dives under braking, so the bike doesn’t go on its nose. I’ve been on it for two years now, including the 1125, and I’ve never tucked the front.”
A recurring theme from both riders and crew chiefs is that they’re far ahead of where they thought they’d be in terms of bike development at this point in the season. They note that the Yamaha YZF-R1 took years of R&D before it became a championship-winning machine. Plus, “EBR-friendly” tracks are coming their way, so they anticipate doing even better. There’s still work to do, though.
“We need more torque coming off the corners,” said May. “The others can get on the gas earlier, and they pull me initially. But when grip goes off, the field is leveled, and they no longer get away. We need a break, some testing away from a race weekend.”
Doing development at the racetrack has its advantages and disadvantages. Each weekend is a learning experience. As May pointed out, “I was faster today. Fitz put in different front springs. And yesterday, I rode the 343 Dunlop. It didn’t have the edge grip I was looking for like the 302 did today.
“Fitz is a specialized chassis guy, and that’s really what every rider needs. The suspension guy should always be the crew chief. I brought him on at M4 Suzuki and stayed with him whenever I could. I couldn’t bring him initially to Jordan Suzuki. Last year, Michael and I were sort of at the end of our tuning abilities. With Fitz here, Michael can be dedicated to the engine and Fitz to the chassis.”
Fitzgerald says the Buell is unique. “It has a character of its own. It keeps the bike glued to the ground where a normal bike wants to lift. During braking, a typical GSX-R front end goes down and the rear goes up. But on this bike, the whole bike goes down. Normal rules don’t apply. And they’re primarily different at high-speed tracks.”
A significant difference between these two teams is that Eslick exclusively uses Öhlins on both ends of the bike, as it comes from the EBR plant, while May and Fitzgerald switch back and forth between JRi and Öhlins shocks
“We run whatever works best for where we are,” said Fitzgerald. “The JRi is a single-tube shock, but the chassis and suspension are not really different between bikes. We’re gathering data. We’ve got nothing to compare our information; it’s all-new.