Garage 22

Attack Performance and Steve Rapp tackle MotoGP at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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Three months ago, Attack Performance principal Richard Stanboli began construction on a MotoGP CRT bike to be raced for the first time by AMA Pro veteran Steve Rapp in July's Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The physical, as opposed to virtual, bike began as an impressive pile of solid aluminum billets banded to a freight pallet. The virtual machine consisted of a detailed digital model of its 1000cc Kawasaki ZX-10R-based engine, around which Stanboli's concept of a light, quick-handling, mass-forward motorcycle would be wrapped.

CRT stands for "Claiming Rule Teams," which is the new class, added to MotoGP this year, whose machines are powered by hotted-up production engines in prototype chassis. CRT bikes are Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta's answer to the dwindling number of prototype entries currently made up from Honda, Yamaha and Ducati factory or satellite bikes.

Three months is a very short time in which to build a racing machine, but Stanboli believed hard work and no sleep could do it. He had scheduled four days of testing right before the beginning of Laguna Seca practice. He and his crew would have made it, but the promised rear suspension unit did not materialize, forcing time-consuming modifications to adapt another unit. The team’s big truck did not arrive in Monterey until the small hours of Friday morning.

Rapp rolled out of Garage 22 to practice with the others. He then had to try to pack into four 45-minute sessions all the shakedown adjustments scheduled for the missing four test days and master the new machine well enough to make the 107-percent-of-pole-time qualifying cut-off. Rapp was visibly nervous as engines were being warmed up along pit lane. It's good to have friends. AMA Pro SuperBike Champion Josh Hayes looked in to give Rapp the benefit of his experience with the unique and huge Bridgestone MotoGP-spec tires and warm-up characteristics of the super-powerful carbon-carbon brakes. Ben Spies' crew chief, Tom Houseworth, also had useful things to say.

Rapp later said, "It was difficult. I was nervous. My own goal was not to crash the thing, to go out, get some laps, bring it back and make it better. That showed me that the brakes are just brakes, the tires are tires and the bike's a bike. We needed to work on body geometry; just sitting on the bike was not comfortable. We adjusted for the second session as far as padding on the tank, things we would've done at the test. We dropped two seconds from the first session, which felt like a huge improvement. We had little issues with the electric shifter, and on/off throttle is really abrupt. The geometry might not be quite right. The power is…it's really fast. It's smooth power once you get it on."

When asked how the CRT Attack Performance bike compared with his AMA-spec ZX-10R, Rapp said the SuperBike was “big, heavy and slow.”

As Rapp, Stanboli and the hard-working crew chipped away at qualifying lap time, the "aliens" leading practice—Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo—steadily lowered the lap record from which the all-important 107 percent is calculated. On one lap, Rapp would go faster, and on the next, pole time would drop.

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There was front-end chatter “mid-corner, right at the apex, as I came in really hard and loaded the front,” said Rapp. This particular type of chatter is a motorcycle phenomenon in which the generation of grip ceases to be smooth, transforming into a vibration that can make riders see double.

Rapp talked about some of the areas for which there just wasn't time. "You can raise or lower the swingarm pivot, change the offset—things we could get to optimum in a couple of days." They didn't have even a couple of hours.

When the team missed hitting the mark in Saturday afternoon qualifying, one possible gateway to the starting grid remained: to hit the number in Sunday morning’s pre-race warm-up.

Sunday morning was cold and foggy, hardly ideal for getting the best from an unfamiliar bike on unfamiliar tires. Now, the engine didn’t start easily, and once on the track, it wouldn’t rev. A quick shift of engine maps by the team’s “laptop guy” seemed to help, but on the track, something remained wrong. No time. They were out by a few tenths of a second. Stanboli could be seen to shrug; he is a veteran and knows that the highs in racing are balanced by deep lows—heartbreaking moments like this one.

Rapp summed up the effort realistically. “To build a new bike in that amount of time, and bring it to the highest level of racing on not a lot of budget and with only one of everything…for me to get used to all this new stuff and go out there and run with the fastest guys in the world, with the best mechanics in the world…if you can do all of that, you’re doing all right.”

The team attracted a lot of attention: The garage was constantly flowing with nodding officials, photographers and journalists. And you can be sure that the bike’s highly professional finish and the fact that it started and ran like an airliner straight through practice have marked the team as lacking nothing but time in making the program.

Everyone now knows that Attack Performance is a serious CRT builder. The team will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the beginning of MotoGP practice on August 17.

Beautiful MotoGP parts can be made by persons with names like Smith, Jones or Stanboli.

Something?s missing. Where?s the seat frame? The gas tank is the seat frame, and it is the seat.

Cycle World Technical Editor Kevin Cameron admires the beautiful parts, while their creator performs the 1000-yard stare of the sleepless.

Made in America. Every little striation is a tool path, but light, dark, silver and gold are the photographer?s artistry.

Crouching tiger emerges from the fiery cauldron of creation. The bike will be painted in time for the Indianapolis GP later this month.

That?s a short frame! Reason? To push engine mass forward. Swingarm length is more than 24 inches.