Welcome to 2014!
The new season has once again started at the sunny deserts of Buttonwillow. The usual last minute bike prep paid its dividends this time around and the improvements in handling were noticeable after the first few corners. With this positive outlook I was looking towards the race weekend. The addition of the Saturday’s 300 production race this year was a welcomed development. It gave the usual 250 crowd yet another chance to hone our racecraft. Or as it was in my case, learning not to make passes that end up costing you positions instead of gaining them. I finished that bout in a somewhat satisfying 5th place.
Sunday started with 250 Superbike, and my first time ever gridding up on the front row of an expert race. Lessons from Saturday didn’t stick and I ended up out-braking myself two laps in the row in the same exact corner, taking a now similar line through the dirt. Consistency is key, however it doesn’t always result in good finishes aka 7th place. In the 500 Twins and 250 Production races I managed to keep my Pirellis dirt free all while having some good battles towards the front. Both times I contrived to keep myself right off the podium in 4th place at the checkered flag.
Despite the lack of plastic trophies to bring back home I was very satisfied with how the weekend turned out. The new parts helped me get comfortable, even at the Martian-like terrain of Buttonwillow.
Big thanks go out to my sponsors!
943: Mid-Season update
Round 3 saw the AFM circus return to Thunderhill Raceway for the first time in 2013. With my still somewhat limited amount of track time there, I was looking forward to learning new things and dropping a few seconds. The first race, 250 Production went quite well and I was happy to find myself not losing the sight of the leaders through the whole race in spite of finishing in 7th place. 250 Superbike was one of the most exciting races in my short career. With many position changes and close passes it was crudely cut short when I slid off the track while battling for 4th place with Sean Corbin and Jeremy Coffey. I had to skip the 500 Twins race due to a few too many mangled bits on the bike. Despite the crash I had positive thoughts about the weekend being satisfied with my improving pace. I’ve written off the crash as a learning experience and was looking to make a comeback without any track excursions.
Unfortunately, round 4 was quite a struggle for me. The bike did not feel right and I couldn’t tell if something was off mechanically or if it was my head telling me to not trust the machinery that so blatantly decided to toss me off in the dirt previously. I was off the pace in the practices and had a really hard time keeping up with the lead pack in the races. This made for some lonely races and pretty unsatisfying results. I’m hoping to make some necessary bike changes before next round and to come back with full strength.
Huge thanks to my sponsors for making my racing adventures this much easier to pursue. Special shout-out goes to EBC brakes for hooking me up with some awesome pads before the previous round.Pictures courtesy of OxyMoron Photography
2013 AFM Season Opener - Buttonwillow Raceway
Photo credit Erich Stiegler Insurance Agency
2012 Season Finale at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway - Patryk Buchcik
Going into this weekend everything I knew about Chuckwalla came from Youtube and the track map. This was a second week in a row that I was going to be learning the track the day of the races. Last week was my first ever WERA event. Las Vegas was a fun track and races there even more so. Coming back home with five 1st place trophies in the novice classes was very satisfying and when the opportunity to race at Chuckwalla presented itself, I could not pass it up.
Racing at CVMA brought some new experiences for me. Not only the novice and expert grids were combined but having a qualifying session meant there was a chance I would not have to start from the back of the pack as I was used to doing all this season. The amount of bikes in the 250 class was astonishing with over 30 of them lining up for each race. I registered for all four of the 250 class races as well as two Formula 2 races (consisting mostly of SV 650s) because I knew I could use all of the practice I could get.
Saturday started off early with two short practice sessions. I knew I had to put my head down and focus on learning the track as quick as possible. Lap times after the practices put me in upper midpack which was great but I knew I had to find a few seconds to be closer to the front. For qualifying I asked one of the locals to let me follow him for a bit to pick up some pace. This helped me a lot and after few laps I was able to find my way around him. To my surprise I ended up 3rd on the grid for the upcoming races.
The first race was 250 SuperSport. It was a weird feeling to be starting a race from the front row. I was accustomed to having to look past many rows of helmets for the flying green flag. I was able to hold on to second place for about 2 laps but ended up losing a few spots and finishing the race in 5th.
The next race, Ultra Lightweight Shootout, fared similarly with a close finish in 6th spot. Followed by a cat and mouse game with Logan Hanks and finishing 13th in the Formula 2 race.
After getting a great night’s sleep in the front seat of a car, I was ready for another day of racing. After a quick warm-up session in the morning I was once again gridded for the Formula 2 race. Logan and I were pushing each other all race long, swapping places many times over and improving our lap times in the process. This was one of the most enjoyable races this season.
After lunch, it was time for another Ultra Lightweight race. This time around I stayed in 2nd place with a consistent gap to the leader for about three laps until the race was red flagged. After the restart everyone seemed to pick up their pace, including me getting my personal best time of the weekend. I finished the race in 5th once again.
The last race was 250 SuperSport. I was a bit disappointed by not getting a single podium finish so I was trying my best at holding on to the 3rd place but eventually Ari Henning and Zack Courts found their way around me. With few corners to go my bike started running out of gas and I had to struggle my way past the finish line in 8th place.
Special thanks go out to Leo Vince for their help this round and to Darin for allowing me to convince him to drive this far with me to race.
With the weekend in the books my first season of racing comes to the end. I could not have hoped for a better start to my racing career. Visiting four different tracks with three different racing organizations was a blast. I cannot wait for next season to start.
Finally, I would like to thank all of my sponsors for helping me in any shape or form: AXO, Suomy, Cycle Gear Racing, Freegun, SPY and Liquid Image.
Season wrap-up #736 Bill Schnoebelen
Well it was do or die time. I missed the last race due to illness.
I was 2 points down in the F4 championship. Ernie Montague helped me
the week prior to refresh the engine and get ready for this race. Dave
Moss and Jim at CRS helped me dial in the suspension. Jeff Viets gave
me my fix of Bridgestones to keep me going fast. I did a ton of laps
around this track in every conceivable line thanks to Keigwins. The
AXO leathers were looking sharp. I was ready!!!
The bike was running very good. I was having issues with downshift in
practice. I chalked it up to my learning how to shift with new gears.
For the first three races, I went back to where I was at the beginning
of the year on starts, last place. I did manage a 5th, 1st, and a 2nd
in the those races. The 2nd place had me finally catching and chasing
the lone leader down the straight on the last lap. I just needed to
figure out the clutch and I would win the last race! I was so
My championship race was race 14. The very last AFM race of the
season. I went down early to figure out the clutch. I did a few
practice starts, but they did not seem right. I would race with what I
had. I needed to beat one guy. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I knew
I could catch him and pass him.
I went out to do the warm up lap. The engine spun up in T1, but the
bike did not go anywhere. I tried a few more times hoping it was a
fluke, but same result. I was done. No novice championship. :(
I limped back to the pits where I may have said some words which
scarred the Alexander children for life. After sitting and finally
thinking about it, I realized in all the rush, I put the wrong clutch
basket in the bike. It was the bad one from the beginning of the
It took me a while to get over it. On the plus side, even after
missing a full race, I finished the season with a 3rd in clubman, 2nd
in 650Twins novice, 2nd in F4 novice. I learned one hell of a lot. I
also met some great people! I had a absolute blast!
I really want a championship now. That clutch basket it going on my
trophy shelf until I can replace it with one.
The experts are in a whole new league. I need 3-4 seconds just to get
to the back of the pack. I can see that happening. It will be fun!
Thanks to everyone who helped me out this year!
3-2-1 Go! - #943 Patryk Buchcik race report from AFM Round 6
After competing in two AFM rounds at Thunderhill and Sonoma and getting 3rd and 2nd places respectively, I only had one goal in mind. I knew that I would have to give my best to reach the top spot of the podium for the first time.
In the first two practice sessions I was able to match and eventually beat my personal best time (2:05) from two months ago. With the track yet at the optimal temperature I was pleased to know that I was able to retain my pace from last time.
Clubman race was once again more of a practice than anything. I finished in 10th place, first Ninja 250 behind the 650s.
Looking at the lap times of my competitors for the 250 Challenge I knew I had to find over a second to be competitive for the top spot. The first lap turned out to be pretty intense with a four way battle for the lead. I was able to put down some passes in the second part of the lap and eventually take the lead and more importantly keep it until the checkered flag. This meant my main goal for the weekend was complete and I still had one full day of racing ahead of me. It didn’t take long for me to find a new mission and it came in form of getting under the 2:00 mark.
The first race on Sunday morning was the 250 Superbike. The track was still quite cold and the fog was still rolling out. Thankfully, I was able to borrow a generator and put some heat into the tires with tire warmers. I was gridded in the second row on the left hand side, but thanks to a decent launch I got a holeshot and led for the remainder of the race. Not only I got my second 1st place, I also broke my personal best by over a second, shifting my weekend goal down to 1:58s.
Next race up was 250 Production. The out-lap turned out to be an exciting one with my teammate crashing out right in front of me. This being the first race with a combined expert and novice grids, it meant a good start was more important than before. With some help from the clutch-gods I made my way half-way through the expert class before the first corner and ended up having few battles with the experts before taking another win.
After a long break, I was gridding up once again for the 500 Twins race. This was another combined grid race and because Brian Bartlow was kind enough to stay back and play, I was in the 3rd overall position until the second lap when he went past me. I did my best at trying to stay behind him and did so for two laps until a red flag halted the race, in the process putting down some of my best sector times. Race was restarted with 5 lonely laps remaining. I took the last win of the weekend with few consistent laps in the 1:58s.
Overall, with 4 first place finishes and a vastly improved personal best time, the weekend went way better than expected. I’m really happy with my results and I’m glad I’m still improving.
Next event I will be participating in will be the 3rd Annual M1GP 24 hour endurance race being held Sept. 29-30, 2012 at Willow Springs International Raceway. My fellow teammates from Racers for Riders and I will be raising funds for Riders for Health charity.
Big thanks go out to my sponsors AXO, Suomy, Cycle Gear, SPY, Feel Like a Pro and Liquid Image for letting me capture all of the action on their brand new Ego HD camera (video coming soon). All photo credit goes to Max Klein.
Race Report from AFM Round 5 at Thunderhill Raceway
#943 Patryk Buchcik:
While I am no longer a complete racing newbie, I had not done a single lap around Thunderhill up to this point. Therefore, going into the weekend my expectations were merely to finish all of my races safely and learn the track by following faster riders. I had a lot to work on in that department, so in between practice sessions I was asking fellow riders for hints on cutting down the laptimes. After lunch, my times slotted me about mid-pack in the novice class. I was quite happy about that and was looking forward to the Clubman race.
This time around I had few points from the last round so I didn’t have to start dead last, but was still gridded towards the back. After a somewhat uneventful race, I managed to finish in 2nd place out of seven other Ninja 250’s.
My first race on Sunday morning was the 500 Twins. Both novice and expert classes were to start at the same time and while I was able to get off the line pretty well, I couldn’t find a gap between the riders in the rows ahead of me and I got swallowed up in the crowd. Throughout most of the race I was trying to make my way through the traffic while still holding on to the top three riders. On the last lap I was closing in on the 2nd place rider but hesitated too long in passing him and I was passed myself a few corners before the checkered flag. I crossed the finish line in 4th position only few feet behind the podium positions.
The 250 Production race was very similar, except with almost double the amount of bikes on the grid. Going into Turn 1 with four other bikes side-by-side was an exciting moment to say the least. With the increased traffic it took me longer to catch up to the leaders of my class. On the last lap the gap between the group ahead of me was getting smaller and in the end I was able to draft behind them as they were in a three way fight for the 2nd and 3rd place. Unfortunately, I wasn’t close enough to pass them and I finished in 5th place.
Before the last race of the weekend I promised myself and few fellow riders that I would do my best to finish ahead of them this time. This time around, the novice and expert grids were split into two waves which allowed me to get a good launch and as a result, a holeshot. Half way through the first lap the inevitable happened and I was passed by Vision Hayes. Apart from few expert back markers the rest of the race was quite lonely. I picked up my personal best time on the last lap and crossed the line in 2nd position.
Overall the weekend was great. In the beginning I was nervous that I wouldn’t learn the track quickly enough to be competitive but as it turns out learning through racing is a pretty good method.
Next month we are going back to Sonoma Raceway and I’m looking forward to improving my results over there.
Once again, big thank you goes to AXO, Suomy, and Cycle Gear. All photo credit goes to Max from Oxymoron Photography.
Team Race Report from AFM Round 4 at Sonoma Raceway
#736 Bill Schnoebelen:
This was my first time racing at Sears Point. I was not sure what to expect. I do love the track. There are a lot of blind corners you have to be on the gas early to keep speed. There are a lot of hard braking tight turns. There is not a whole lot in terms of resting points or straightaways. The perfect SV track!
We were off pace all weekend. It started on Saturday with the rear lifting off the ground on hard breaking. The front was also chattering on trail braking. There is a lot of hard braking and trail braking at Sears. I did what I could with the current set-up, but could not get it to work. I turned to Catalyst Reaction Tuning. Dave Moss initially worked on my front rebound which was way off. This helped but did not solve the problem. I came back after the first race Sunday and Jim Williams found my steering head bearings to be loose. Thanks goodness for the stickiness of that Bridgestone R10! Our chief mechanic Enrique Palazzo quickly sorted this out. I did a practice lap in race 12 warm up and it felt much better!
Race 14, our most important race, was the final race of the day. I was leading in the championship points and would start on pole. With all the delays, I was not sure if we were going to get it in. Mentally I was thinking I needed a good start, and I could break away. With the better setup, Ricardo De Pena was the only one fast enough to catch me. I was hoping he would get caught in traffic. The start of the race was not bad. This means I was not last. I was block passed going into T1. I did not allow that for long. I easily passed going into T6. At the end of the first lap, I was leading. I was actually hitting my apexes! Normally this is good, but this was putting me much faster into the next corner. I didn't have the timing right. I had to ease off at times. Ricardo passed me in T1. I managed to stay close, but I could not match his pace. I did get some better lines going into T3. I was faster into T9. I was hoping for traffic and catch him there on the last lap, but the race was too short. Ricardo won it. I came in second. I managed to just break below the 1:55 mark with a 1:54:967. This was a personal best by almost 1 1/2 seconds.
Next time, we will need a couple of seconds to win. We are working on a better chassis. I believe we can gain a couple of seconds by looking further up the track. My current visual points are too close with the gained speed. It will certainly be a fun race!
#943 Patryk Buchcik:
First ever AFM #943 Race Report
Being assigned to the #1 practice group, we were the first ones to go out on the still cold and moist track. I could see a hint of fear in Brian Bartlow’s eyes when he instructed me to take it slow due to the track conditions; after all I was just some noob. By the end of the practice he was probably surprised to see the bike and me back in one piece.
My nervousness was peaking as I was making my way down the pit lane, up Turn 1, around 2 (not apexing it of course) and then everything went downhill, both literally and figuratively. I was able to relax and focus on getting used to the bike and relearning the track; I haven’t ridden on in over two years. With every session out on the track, the grin on my face would get bigger. My lap times were slowly but steadily improving.
Starting to race mid-season means you have zero points in the championship, therefore my grid spot was last in all of my races this weekend. The first race I participated in was Clubman Lightweight. There were only four fellow Ninja 250s and the remainder of the field consisted mostly of SV 650s. I managed to finish in 15th place, 2nd of the Kawasakis.
Following Clubman Lightweight, I was up again with all the other Ninja’s for the 250 Challenge. With over 30 bikes on the grid it was quite a sight. I was able to hang onto and battle with couple faster riders and drop few seconds of my lap times. I finished 6th.
This concluded my first race day and my expectations were exceeded. I was eager to get out again and couldn’t wait for Sunday. Saturday night I had trouble sleeping, both from soreness and excitement over what awaited me the following day. Due to a slight scheduling error on my part, I got to the track just as my fellow teammates were coming out for their practice session. I managed to jump in my leathers in record breaking time and was able to get few warm-up laps.
First race on Sunday was 250 Superbike. Before the race I was doing practice starts. Being grided all the way at the end a bad start would mean that I would lose the sight of the leaders and wouldn’t have anyone to hang on to and improve my pace. Fortunately my starts were pretty good and I was able to make up about five places before the second corner. I finished 5th in that race.
250 Production was quite familiar, however, a few shifting mistakes cost me a position and I ended up crossing the line in 6th place.
With a long break until my last race, 500 Twins, I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to accomplish and what a realistic result would be. When the flag finally dropped my awesome launching skills landed me in the 1st place in my class. I somehow managed to hold that position for three laps. Unfortunately for both me and even more so for the rider involved, a red flag was brought out. With only three laps completed, the race was to be restarted. This time my start wasn’t as good and I spent most of the race in 3rd place. Last lap I began closing in on the 2nd place rider. My secret plan to pass him on the brakes into 11 was thwarted when he read my mind and blocked my line. My last chance was the pass him in a drag race to the finish line however I was few inches or .005 of a second short of passing him. A very exciting ending to a very exciting weekend.
I’ve been looking forward to racing with AFM for over two years now, not much after my first couple track days. Now that I finally made it here I’m hooked and I will be seeing everyone at the next round at Thunderhill.
I would like to thank AXO and Suomy for keeping me safe and looking good. Cycle Gear Racing for supporting me. Max from Oxymoron Photography for making me look fast. And of course Brian Bartlow for running an awesome program; it really did make me feel like a pro!