It’s been seven long years since I last turned a wheel around the great speed bowl known as Daytona International Speedway. On Thursday, March 8, I’ll once again experience the unique thrill of brushing alongside the concrete wall lining the famed tri-oval while traveling in excess of 170 mph. Jumping back in the fray of the ultra-competitive 600 Supersport class will certainly rattle the rust off my 45-year-old bones.
A decade ago it seemed almost a given that for Cycle World readers and myself, early March saw me tucking under the bubble up on the high banks, as each year presented a fresh opportunity to ride some form of race-prepped machine in the interest of sharing the experience with our readers.
Following my Daytona indoctrination in 1993 aboard a Supersport Suzuki GSX-R600, we dove into the deep end. With support from Yamaha, Vance & Hines and Attack Performance, Team Cycle World and I saddled up for a crack at the famed 200-miler. But our race ended with an engine failure. We returned in ’95 with the same YZF-750 Superbike for another go. I crashed out of the race, however, having applied too much brake a bit too deep into a corner.
The following March offered some degree of redemption as I accepted an invite to ride a Team Kinko’s Kawasaki ZX-7R and put up a respectable result in 750 Supersport. There were also a couple years in which I flew the Team CW banner aboard vintage racers in the AHMRA event that precedes the AMA Pro races during Bike Week. In all, good rides filled with plenty of fond memories.
My personal favorite Daytona outing came in 1999 when I raced a bone-stock Yamaha YZF-R6 in 600 Supersport. The story, titled “Taking Stock,” was intended to show just how capable showroom-stock street bikes had become. We had a little good-natured fun in creating a faux personalized license plate—actually a decal—that read “STOCKER” and was applied to the bike’s rear fender. The plate frame had the slogan “My Bike’s Stock, What’s Your Excuse?”
Well, it seems I myself have no such excuse this year, as I’ll be riding a 2007 Honda CBR600RR that’s been fully race-prepped by the skilled and knowledgeable folks at Erion Racing. Team owner Kevin Erion and Technical Director Rick Hobbs have both informed me the bike I’ll be riding has received the same treatment given the machines ridden by the contracted team riders Josh Hayes and Aaron Gobert. Check out the accompanying video to learn more about the equipment preparation process employed by Erion Racing.
With Daytona kicking off the AMA roadracing season, there’s seldom enough time to feel fully prepared. Although our CBR arrived mid-January, the only pre-Daytona seat time I’ve had was a couple hundred engine break-in miles I logged on the street before delivering the bike to the Erion’s headquarters in Orange, California. Busy guys, for sure, with a large hauler-load of bikes to prepare and many critical parts not arriving until the last moment.
This may be the closest thing I’ve come to a factory ride in this century, but I’m certainly no factory racer. Heck, I may even get grease under my nails helping fit the Öhlins suspension that is to be delivered to the track. Racing isn’t supposed to be easy; if it were, there would be no story worth telling. Check back here for the outcome and look in the June issue of Cycle World for the whole tale.