Gerry Signorelli's Rookie Season in the AMA Pro Vance and Hines XR1200 Series
NEWS September 22, 2011
Photo by Brian J Nelson
(Sept. 22, 2011) - The 2011 race season, my first pro year, played out in a way far from how I could have ever imagined it would. I started the year optimistic about the chance to race in a national pro spec series that seemed to be growing and gaining attention. The learning experiences that were to follow that decision blew my mind. I guess I should have been more prepared to deal with growing pains considering it was my first year in the series, learning new tracks, taming a new bike, and that the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Spec class asked that we race a very stock street bike not originally created for hardcore race track action.
It started when the Racing for a Wish Team struck a deal with a Colorado Harley dealer, Pikes Peak Harley-Davidson, and got its hands on my future race bike. The deal happened dangerously close to the AMA Pro season opener at Daytona International Speedway, leaving us little time to get the setup figured out with our new suspension sponsor, Racetech. I was forced to arrive at Daytona having never ridden the bike with the race kit and suspension installed. This being said, we were unaware of the fact that the bike's geometry settings were all wrong and the bike would prove to be incredibly unstable. On my first lap out at Daytona International Speedway, the bike repeatedly got itself into speed wobbles, very violent ones. I tried everything I could think of to settle it down. I was on the gas, on the gas harder, off the gas, etc., but nothing prevailed and I lost control of the beast my first time through the tri-oval and was high-sided across the start/finish line. The bike and I both tumbled. I got up pissed off, but ok. The bike was less than ok. We tried, but couldn't get the bike fixed in time to make the grid come race time so we headed home and prepared for the next round.
Even with the crash, Daytona was actually a very successful trip. It gave me the chance to sit and chat with an industry leader and enthusiast, Tom Rudd, about having his company, Kuryakyn, come on board as title sponsor. He is no stranger to success and a passionate involvement in the motorcycle industry so I was elated with the thought of having such an impressive company join our efforts. We continued to finalize plans over the coming weeks and have since created an impressive partnership in a few short months. Kuryakyn makes really incredible accessories for your street bike, but also fully sponsors our road race team and the Make-A-Wish Foundation charity, which Racing for a Wish benefits. They also have a killer pro drag racing team.
From that point on, I crashed more in following two months than I had in the previous two years. It turns out that the bike's frame, swingarm, and forks were badly bent and twisted from the Daytona crash. We attempted to have this checked and corrected with our frame guy in Colorado while at home, but he did not have the correct jig and we had to hit the road again shortly after. I was high-sided off at the Infineon, Road America, and Barber races. The crashes hurt and made me wonder what I had gotten myself into deciding on the XR1200 class. I started having to ride the bike in such a timid way to keep it upright that I was not enjoying racing it. If I even breathed wrong on that thing, it would get into a violent bucking motion, weave, wobble, and flick me into the air. I was lucky to escape serious injury after hitting the deck hard, over and over. Although I was frustrated, we were managing to gain quite a bit of exposure for Kuryakyn and all of our sponsors during that period as crash videos and pictures were getting thousands of views in news articles, on Youtube and the internet.
It wasn't until before the Mid-Ohio round that we were able to get the frame straightened. My first time back on it after that, I said to myself, "Oh yea! This is what riding is supposed to be like". The bike finally behaved more normally and we were able to start making progress on setup and catching up to the other teams. During the time we had a bent frame, the other teams were getting better and better each weekend while we were just spinning our wheels. I earned my first top-ten pro finish there at Mid-Ohio and we had renewed life. Though even with the straight frame, the Harley is a different beast. It is very heavy, wobbles, weaves, twists, always has a hint of instability issues and offers feedback that unfortunately feels a bit numb. In my short few years of racing, I have had the opportunity to race quite numerous different types of race bikes and the XR1200 is a completely different animal.
After the VIR round was canceled, the next round up was the double-header Indy GP. I couldn't believe we were going to be given the chance to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on a Harley-Davidson, the same weekend as legends like Valentino Rossi in front of over 100,000 fans! The event was really an incredible experience. We signed autographs, engaged hundreds of fans in conversation as they walked through the paddock, and were on television with great racing coverage. We showed some great speed on the track as well, finally. The AMA Pro officials were taking notice and commenting on us being "most improved". We qualified in 10th in a grid of over thirty bikes with some great veteran riders and had high hopes for the races. I was so excited about having a bike under me that was working well that I found myself getting a little too anxious and over-exhuberant in the first of two races. I charged into the second turn on lap one too aggressively and collided with another racer. I crashed out and was left sitting on the side watching the great racing action from afar. We prepared for the second Indy race and were ready to go by Sunday afternoon. I got a good start and was in the top ten. By lap two we had a mechanical failure though as the shift linkage broke. Not being able to shift, the rest of the field starting going by me so I pulled in to try to get it fixed. We got it taken care of, but we were already two laps down. I guess we will just have to look forward to a better result at Indy next year. If you get a chance to go, do not pass up that event. The Indianapolis GP is a spectacular event with all the racing stars there, legendary facilities, and a city atmosphere that caters to motorsports. The XR1200 racing was the most exciting of the weekend with multi-bike drafting battles going over the yard of bricks and battling for position entering into turn one, wide-open-throttle in fifth gear. Turn one has a great flat track type dynamic as the riders XR1200's peel off the banking and into the infield. .
After a year full of such challenging races, we went to the final round at New Jersey Motorsports Park over the Labor Day Weekend knowing that we were due for a good weekend! It turned out to be a great weekend. We finished the race in 8th (a new best pro finish), made a lot of great impressions on fans from the Northeast, and raised additional money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was just the type of weekend we needed to finish the year on a positive note and start momentum in which we will take into next year.
I'm really looking forward to racing the Kuryakyn Racing for a Wish XR1200 again next year. We learned so much this year that I am confident 2012 will go smoothly and we'll be able to earn impressive results. I'm looking forward to getting home for a bit in the off season. Being a professional racer is a dream come true that keeps me away from home quite a bit. I've been home a total of nineteen days since January and enjoyed every minute of it! Between races, marketing events, and coaching for the California Superbike School, I am always traveling. As we prepare for the 2012 season throughout the off-season, I will enjoy some of the best mountain biking in the world in Colorado, ride flat track, moto, and supermoto, line up sponsorship deals for the coming year, and make sure I'm in superb physical conditioning for when the Daytona race comes around in March. I hope everyone out there enjoys their fall riding season and can make it out to a few races next year!"
-Gerry "Sig" Signorelli
Kuryakyn Racing for a Wish Team
Partnered with Kuryakyn and Bob Fier Racing
to Benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation
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