“It felt like we had an entire zoo on back”
Sonoma Raceway – Sonoma, CA
MotoAmerica brings the national series back to the famous Northern California circuit for the first time since 2012. The beautiful track situated in the foothills of wine country is a rider favorite and the last of the west coast rounds. Would this be the site of the team’s first race finish since Road America? That hurts to type and hurts even more to realize that it’s been that long since the team has scored any points. The summer break was something that the guys needed, probably more than most, and they spent the time building and testing the new Honda CBR1000RR SP2. Utilizing all the available resources at their disposal, the 32Crew was able to conduct two tests at their home track of High Plains Raceway in Colorado with support from sponsors, some of whom made the trip east of Denver to directly support the testing.
At the conclusion of the testing, the team was confident that the electrical issues that have plagued them all season had been resolved. Several long stints without incident reassured the team that when they loaded the transporter and sent it to California, they’d be back to properly competing in the tightly contested Superbike field. So off to Sonoma the transporter went carrying the hopes of an entire team for an eventful return to racing.
Friday morning arrives and with it, the first sessions of the weekend. Now that the teams aren’t competing for track time with another series, regular schedules resumed which means a solid 60 minute session for the Genuine Broaster Chicken / Honda rider to get reacquainted with the Sonoma track. It was obvious that right from the beginning, Jake was comfortable on the bike. He quickly got on the gas and began turning some impressive lap times. Being able to put in laps without issue was a giant step forward and when the session was ended, Jake had put himself in 9th position with less than a second covering 3rd through 9th. Without any major concerns, Jake was able to take on the second 60 min session with a renewed vigor. Lap after lap he was moving closer and closer to the front of the pack. As the top riders dropped their times, Jake was able to keep the pace finishing in a strong 6th position and securing his place in Saturday’s Superpole.
Saturday morning arrived and the weather couldn’t have been more ideal. The sun was out and none of the infamous overcast moisture was in the air or on the track. The superbike field was given their 30 minute warmup session and again Jake was looking is impressive. With a brand new swagger heading into Superpole, Jake and the 32Crew had fitted the special Dunlop Pre-Qualifying tire for two flying laps before coming into swap it out for the super soft Qualifier. With one flying lap as the tire’s life limit, Jake couldn’t waste any time getting the tire up to temperature. Jake threw down a time of 1:36:510 which was within a second of third place but would see him in eighth place. This was going to be a tightly contested group with so much talent grouped closely to each other.
As race drew close, Jake and the team were feeling great. None of the previous issues had resurfaced, affirming the fact that they had finally overcome the troublesome electrical gremlins. The funny thing is, when you’ve resolved one problem, other ones that had gone undiagnosed, can rear their ugly heads up. This would unfortunately be the situation in race one. As the lights went out on the grid and the field began to jostle for position, Jake was feeling something going wrong. By lap six he had experienced brake fade and within a few more laps it was evident that he wouldn’t be able to continue. Utterly dejected, Jake was forced to retire and thus handing the team their 5th DNF in a row.
After a late night of rebuilding and triple checking equipment crew chief Scott Jensen was again confident that everything was good to go. Obviously there was some apprehension heading into race two but the morning warm-ups and sighting laps had re-instilled confidence that everything was working well. As Jake took the grid and waited for the lights to go out, the tension was high and thoughts of another possible DNF were actively being suppressed. As fortune would have it, once the field was turned loose Jake would find himself in a strong group and battling for a top 5 position initially. Jake would eventually get caught up in a battle that would see him slip back to a top ten position. The laps continued to tick down and Jake was still battling hard. With one lap to go, Jake would make one more pass to claim 9th overall. As Jake took the checkers for the first time in while aboard the Genuine Broaster Chicken / Honda, there was an audible relief throughout the team as the weight of the past few races was lifted off their shoulders.
Now the team can focus on Round 8 of the MotoAmerica Superbike Series as it makes its maiden voyage to Pittsburgh.