Jon Kuo was running well on Saturday in the season’s sixth round of competition, and he was keeping up easily with the leaders. Then, coming out of a turn, he twisted the throttle and not a lot happened. Lacking the normal get-up-and-go, he was soon passed by most of the field and finished the race in 8th place.
After holding a strong second place in the 250cc production class in the Motorcycle Roadracing Association’s (MRA) competition, this was not a finish Jon was accustomed to or happy with. In the period between Saturday’s and Sunday’s races he went through the mechanicals–took out the carb and cleaned out the jets, checked the spark plugs, pulled off the fuel tank and checked the pet-cock and filter–and hoped that would do the trick. Sunday’s outing, however, proved otherwise and he took a last-place finish.
We’ve been following Jon through the season, getting a view of the amateur racing scene through his eyes. Those eyes were looking quite perplexed on Sunday. After loading up the bike and his gear, Jon talked some more with other racers in his class and arrived at the hope that perhaps his problem was the SIDI box (igniter?). One racer who had crashed out and whose bike was in no shape for competition, offered to let Jon take his SIDI box and put it in Jon’s bike to see if that solved the problem. Jon checked with the racing authorities and they agreed to let him run the warm-up lap with the second race after lunch so he could test the fix at speed.
Up to this point Jon’s season had been going well. At race 5 in late July he had finished in 4th place on Saturday and then in 3rd on Sunday.
“I was in a nice battle with Matt Diehl. He passed me in turn 4 and stayed like that for awhile, I just hounded him the whole time, trying to figure out where I’m going to pass him and how. So I planned it to pass him at the very last corner at the bottom of the course on the last lap. Came the last lap and I was close enough, I got a different line to get a better line out. As soon as he came out of the corkscrew I pulled out of his draft, and I think I pulled out a little too early, by the time we finished, we crossed over the line I was one one-thousandth of a second behind him. That plan didn’t go very well.
“On Sunday I changed my plan. The same thing happened during the race. He passed me going into turn 5. Then I had one time when I nearly passed him going into turn 7, but I stayed behind him for that lap and then the second to last lap I decided ‘I’m not going to let this happen again like yesterday’s race,’ and I passed him going into the corkscrew, the top of the corkscrew, and finished it out like that. That was a really good race that weekend.”
Then, this weekend, he was in top form.
“After the second lap of yesterday’s race, everything was going fine. I was keeping up with the leaders this time. Felt really good. All of a sudden about half-way through the race, in turn 7, all of a sudden the bike just decided not to accelerate as hard as it normally does. All of a sudden Matt and Tony passed me. They thought I mis-shifted but I just couldn’t accelerate. It was that much difference in acceleration, they passed me like I was nothing. I managed to nurse it home, finishing 8th.”
So Jon headed out for that warm-up lap and as the field took their places at the starting line he headed back to the paddock. Did it work replacing the SIDI box?
“No,” was the one word reply, his demeanor displaying great disappointment.
What will he do now?
“Take it to a motorcycle shop and let them figure out what’s wrong.”
No telling what the problem will turn out to be, but Jon expects the repair to be expensive. With just two events left in the season, if it is a very expensive repair he may just throw in the towel on this season and help that his points lead will enable him to at least hang onto a third place season record.
Even if the news is bad, though, Jon plans to race at the next event in three weeks. If he’s not on his Ninja he’ll be on his 600cc Honda, not competing for any class finish, but just for the sake of racing.
“I hope I haven’t forgotten how to ride the 600,” he noted.
And then, the final race of the season is a complete uncertainty. It’s a factor of amateur racing that as the season wears on, some racers exhaust the funds they set aside for competition and drop out. Others crash out and decide it’s not worth the expense to get back into this year’s competition. One way or another, MRA revenues have been down the last two events and it may be necessary to cancel the final event in order to stop the financial hemorraging currently going on.
With only one more event Jon may be able to hand onto third. Or maybe the diagnosis won’t be so bad and he’ll be back next month to salvage second. We’ll know in a few weeks.