As written earlier, the GP Bikes Triumph 675 Daytona Team was cleared to race in the third weekend of the 2016 Mopar CSBK Tour at the challenging Shubenacadie circuit, July 14-17, despite rider Michael Taylor's arm injury.
The Atlantic Motorsport Park venue is a favourite of the experienced veteran due to the very physical nature of its hills, corners, and above all else, it's beauty. Getting a good lap and race at A.M.P. requires a concerted effort to get the motorcycle just right, and the rider 'tuned in.'
Work and Michael's family demands meant the Team couldn't depart for the east coast until Wednesday evening, getting tuner Rob Thompson and Michael (and team dog Sophie!) there for the end of Thursday's test sessions. Unfortunately it rained heavily in the early morning Friday, giving the crew nothing but wet track practice with which to set the potent 675R up to the tracks specific requirements.
Shubie' is not a horsepower track. It requires a lot of confidence in front tire 'feel' and great rolling mid corner speed. Without those advantages it can be a great deal of work and frustration over a full race distance. When you get things right, “Shubie” is one of the most pleasurable circuits.
Being a double header weekend presented by Pro Cycle, official Qualifying for the ultimately four races, was all done on Friday afternoon, and the team's first dry time. Several years experience helped Michael dial the lightweight Triumph triple in as best he could and ride OK, but he was disappointed to miss pole position and work very hard just to get on the front row for Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike.
Dalton Timmis Superbike SuperPole Qualifying was even worse. Despite using the best new Dunlop rear slick, and making several 'gut' changes to the suspension settings, Michael went even slower. Lap times were in the mid 1:12 range. He had gone quicker here three years ago on a 530 lb Harley Davidson XR1200 spec series racer!
The GP Bikes/Castrol/Goderich Toyota/Mr Metal backed Triumph team were struggling.
Michael rode gamely in Saturday’s Sport Bike opener to earn a mediocre finish, a distant fourth. Not near his goal of a win.
Fortunately, the experience of some of Taylor's colleagues, namely John Cornwell and Sandy Noce, helped steer things in a better direction. Michael was experiencing numerous 'tank slappers' while rolling onto the Rollercoaster back straight, and worse, riding around fast uphill corner 8. He nearly pitched the bike somersaulting on several laps, and wrenching his weakened right arm in the process. This issue forced less mid-corner speed, and bad lap times.
The main improvement the team discovered was that lengthening the Triumph wheelbase, settled things down significantly. Adding an inch of length to the wheelbase with a new chain (thanks Sturgess/Liqui Moly Team Riedmann) allowed Michael to get more of the corner speed he enjoyed at the last circuit, Autodrome St-Eustache in Quebec. Rob got the chain done for the Saturday afternoon Superbike race, and Michael immediately dropped a second and a half off his times, and he was comfortable!
Taylor went from a fifth row grid position and a tentative start, ripping through the field to get with seventh place Sam Trepanier on his BMW 1000cc “proper” superbike.
Well, all the focus on wheelbase didn't mean the guys had got dampening settings quite right, and Miichael pushed a little too fast through bumpy turn one and slid softly to a stop in the outfield grass. Oops! Race over.
More chassis analysis and work before the Sunday races had the Team's spirits buoyed significantly. Michael felt he might have a motorcycle he could win with.
Settings were still a bit of a crapshoot with limited testing time on Sunday morning. Michael had loosened the dampening up, but he wasn't focused on “development riding” on Sunday. The races would be a lot of physical effort on his weakened arm, so he just did a couple of sighting laps. Attitude would have to make up the half second time gap he still was from the class Champ and fast guy, Riedmann!
Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike round four was the main focus so Michael set off after a good start to follow leading Kenny. Within about three laps Tommy Casas (Peterborough Cycle Yamaha YZF-R6) pushed past on the back straight, and Michael subsequently made a big shifting error in the next couple of corners. The two leaders gapped him about a second and a half and then did their fastest times.
Michael endeavoured to keep a steady pace and perhaps improve on the race leaders (Riedmann and Casas) at the end. He had chosen Dunlop's medium rear as opposed to the softer DOT rear tire he had overworked in the Saturday race. Towards the end, a hard-charging Casas overdid things into a smooth sweeper, high siding, and Michael realized a second place would help his pocketbook and Championship hopes!
A focused effort and calm hands on the Triumph pulled him clear of third placed Ron Munroe’s Freedom Kawasaki 636 Ninja and he got to thank his sponsors from the Pro Cycle Podium. A great change of fortune!
The Mopar Pro Superbike Feature was even more fun for Taylor.
Again starting from fifth row he dealt with a sudden change: the loss of his clutch just before the start. The lever was coming back to the bar with minimal disengagement. He knew he had one good chance to get off the line and didn't pull the lever in until all lights went out on the start board!
Despite this, the Triumph got off the line well, and with some spirited riding in traffic, (Michael explaining he 'blipped' the throttle for downshifts) he pulled up to mid super bike field (seventh) and set his sights on beating Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja Superbike mounted Sebastien Tremblay. It was a long hard race, and though he never made his goal with Tremblay, he had a great ride, and rode his fastest all weekend to a 1:10 flat. As is typical, with the bike handling much better now, he was less tired going faster Sunday, than struggling in the 1:12 time bracket of Saturday.
A satisfying event, and good for the Team's knowledge of dialling in their new Triumph. The goal of the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Championship Title in his first year back on 'proper' race bikes, and first year on the Triumph, is very unlikely at this point with only two races to go.
The GP Bikes Taylor Team , however, will not be pleased if they don't give it their all to achieve victory at the upcoming August 18-21 Doubleheader at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park - Mosport. The 675R engine comes out next week for upgrades with Gord Bush Performance. Taylor will be ready too, and we hope everyone gets out to encourage Team Triumph at the feature event in five weeks!
From a press release