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Round Five
By Tom Hull, Team Wreckless, AMA #21

WHAT A RIDE!!! Thanks to Team Corbin Motorcycle Online Buell Thanks to Team Corbin Motorcycle Online Buell, I was able to compete in the Pro Thunder Race at Sears Point. I was given the chance to ride Mark Miller's backup bike and this was my first race on a Buell motorcycle. I'll give you a little history here so you can see how this all came about. I am racing a Ducati 944 in the AMA Pro Thunder class. I built this bike myself and do all my own mechanical work at the track. I have added new parts over the years but basically I have been racing this same bike for four years now.

Our first race this year was in Phoenix and I was pleased with the bike and my riding, I won my heat race and finished the race in 4th place right behind Mark Miller. The bike ran strong but I felt it needed more suspension work for the high speeds. My friends called me and said there was some great shots of me on the Motorcycle Online page in Mark Millers story of the Pro Thunder race. Yup, they were right, the 6th and 7th pictures in Mark's story had me in plain view.

Next stop, Daytona. Due to my work schedule at East Side Performance in Mesa, AZ, I had to fly into Daytona. My Dad, Dave Hull, who is also racing a Ducati in the Pro Thunder series delivered my bike to the track and had the pit setup when I got there. Unfortunately, Dave broke his ankle in practice and was out for the weekend. My bike ran great but I found a small oil leak. No problem, a minor repair and I was ready for the race. I qualified third behind Curtis Adams and Paul Harrell. In the 9th lap of the final race, I got black flagged, another oil leak, this one was dripping right on the exhaust and causing a smoking problem for everyone to see. I came into the pits for tech and they sent me back out after checking the bike over and seeing that it was not a major problem. This put me back to 9th place and a big disappointment. Again, there was a picture of me and my bike in Mark's story on Motorcycle Online.

On to Laguna Seca for the third race in the series. I had never been on this track before and needed all the practice time I could get, I finished 7th overall. The first picture in Mark's story on Motorcycle Online shows #21 again. Willow Springs was next, now the problems started. I bent a valve during the race and only made a few laps. We returned to Arizona after the race, repaired the motor and immediately left for Sears Point. I entered the paid promoter practice at Sears Point on Thursday. I had never raced this track before and knew that I needed more track time. I noticed the front brake pads were running low so I decided to replace them at the last minute before practice and then found a warped rotor. After I changed the rotor and pads I jumped on the bike to run what was left of my practice, only to find out that it was over. I talked to the AMA official and asked if I could run just two laps of the 600 Supersport practice to see which way the track went and he okayed it. I came in after two laps, the official waved me over and asked if I was comfortable running with the 600's and I said yes. He said, "for this time only, I'll let you run this whole practice if you feel okay out there," but if anybody complained, he would wave me in. I finished the practice with no problems but I got a couple of strange looks from Chandler and Bostrom due to the unusual bike out there. Friday practices were rained out. Saturday practices started late due to track cleaning. During my first practice on Saturday the bike had a tremendous vibration. I pulled in, looked it over and then made one more lap. The vibration felt like the bike was coming apart. It sure was, upon closer inspection, both sides of the cases were cracked. I was done for the weekend. I borrowed a Ducati from Robert Gonzales for the qualifying but came in after two laps because this bike was experiencing electrical problems. The two laps allowed me to race Sunday in the final but put me in the last row of the grid, a place I'm not used to starting from. Of course, I still had no idea what bike I would race.

My crew checked with several different racers and teams to see if someone had an extra bike to lend me for the final. There was other spare bikes available but no one to make the decision to lend the use of the bike. Then we contacted Brent Plummer, CEO of Motorcycle Online and reached an agreement to ride the Team Corbin Motorcycle Online Buell. I was able to ride the bike in the Sunday morning practice before the final race to feel out the bike and to see how different it would ride compared to my Ducati. They are using Michelin tires on the Buell and I'm not used to this brand. I took the first couple of laps slow to see what the tires would do and see how it felt in general. Now I was really confused. This bike felt like it was lacking in horsepower but how could that be. Mark Miller rides it so damn fast. A few more laps made me realize the suspension setup was far superior to my Ducati. The bike would rail over the bumpy sections of the track with ease but felt squirrely in the high speed esses section.

Now it's race time. The Team Corbin Motorcycle Online crew had Mark's bike and his backup bike in the hot pit, tire warmers on, motors running, number plates altered on the backup bike to read "21" and ready to race. The three minute horn blows, the tire warmers are removed and the bikes let down from the wheel stands. Mark and I mount the Buell's and are now ready for the warmup lap.

I take my grid position in the last row. It sure seems unusual to see all these bikes lined up in front of me. The light goes from red to green and we are off. The Buell launched smooth and straight. Turn one is a medium speed left hand turn going up hill to a hard right hand blind off- camber turn, everyone bunches up to the inside of the turn and that makes for a lot of paint trading. I settled into a fast pace, passing other racers here and there. I had a hard time getting around one racer that was holding me up in the tight sections but was getting away from me in the esses. I tried matching his speed in the esses and found myself doing a wild tank slapper. Mark Miller was sitting in the esses section on the side of the track due to a motor failure on the first lap of the race and was able to clearly see me with my hands full trying to control this tank slapper on his backup bike. I finally passed this rider right before the hay bale chicane near the start/finish, this was a tight move, not much passing is done in this area. Once I got by this rider, I was able to pull out quite a distance right away. I started 22nd and finished 13th on a borrowed bike and a track that I had very little time on. I noticed the fans were waving and clapping much more here at Sears Point for the riders on the cool down lap than I have seen at other AMA pro races this year. I was waving back at the fans as I passed, riding this cool Buell. I was busy watching the fans and almost missed Mark standing by the side of the track but was able to stop and give him a ride back to the pits. When I arrived back in the pits, Brent Plummer asked how I liked riding the Buell and I replied, "I liked the suspension setup but I had a couple of wiggles." Mark Miller joined in and said, "That was quite a tank slapper you had out there." I could only grin as I thought about what was racing through his head as he looked on. My crew timed my laps in the race and later found that I was doing two seconds faster per lap on the Buell than I was on my Ducati.

I want to thank Brent Plummer and Mark Miller for giving me this chance to compete at Sears Point on their Team Corbin Motorcycle Online Buell. It was a very generous offer and I sincerely appreciate it.

- Tom Hull AMA #21

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