Brian J. Nelson

Man in a Van with a Plan 2.0 Race Report From Sonoma Raceway

Can't stop the Cycle World Suzuki GSX-R1000… Literally!

After a month-long break, the MotoAmerica Championships fired up again, this time returning to Northern California's Sonoma Raceway, a long-time mainstay of pro road racing that the series last visited in 2012. While MotoAmerica was on summer hiatus, our man in a van, Hayden Gillim, was sticking to his plan and continued racking up the miles driving to races.

On the MotoAmerica break, Gillim once again fired up his Cycle World Suzuki RM-Z450 and raced to his second American Flat Track victory of the season in AFT Singles action at the Buffalo Chip TT.

hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson

When he wasn’t driving cross country Gillim spent time training with one of America’s all-time best, Josh Hayes.

“During the break, went down to Oceanside in California and just did some training with Josh Hayes and Melissa,” Gillim said. “Kyle Wyman was down there, so just did some training with those guys, rode bicycles a little bit. Kind of just hung out. Got a tan going at the beach. Then went to Sturgis and had a pretty good week there.”

Back in action in Sonoma and Gillim admitted the weekend started a little slow for him. He qualified 16th on the 27-rider Superbike grid with a time of 1:39.847. Things improved dramatically during Saturday morning’s warm-up where he improved to a 1:38.639.

hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson

In Saturday’s race one Gillim got stronger as the race progressed. He just missed the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 podium, taking fourth in class, ninth overall with the combined Superbikes.

“I got a really bad start,” Gillim explained. “Just kind of back there in the pack a bit on those first couple laps. Slowly got my way through some of the guys. Kyle Wyman and Danny Eslick and Sylvain Barrier and Jason DiSalvo were up in front of me. Just slowly tried to catch them. Put in really consistent laps, low 39s, high 38s all race. Slowly caught up but just ran out of time with a few laps to go. Ended up only being back by about two seconds. If I would have known Danny was in the podium position I would have probably tried a little bit harder, tried to go for it. But it was a good race.”

After the team hit on an improved setup for Sunday, Gillim was faster still and ready to battle in race two. Unfortunately, an issue with his bike’s front brake forced Gillim to retire from the race.

hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson

“I got a lot better start and was running right there with those guys, with Sylvain Barrier and Danny Eslick, Kyle Wyman,” Gillim said. “I think I was sitting about 12th and there was three or four of them in front of me. All of a sudden, I started having a little brake fade issue. I was having to adjust the brakes every single lap trying to get them to work so that they weren’t hitting my fingers. So, every lap I was having to readjust it. It was causing me a little bit of problem because around here there’s not a big, long straightaway, so I was having to do it through the corners, and that was a little weird.

“Out of nowhere the brakes just stopped working,” Gillim continued. “They were working, but it was like they just hit a wall and wouldn’t squeeze any harder. I could grab the brake as hard as I possibly could and it just would not pull. So, I don't know if maybe they overheated or what happened, but I shot off the track coming off the drag strip. It’s a bummer because I was right there and I know that with yesterday’s ride I had the pace to just keep turning out low 38s all race long. I felt like we definitely at least had a fourth place in in us and top 10 overall. But we’re going to figure some things out and be ready to go in Pittsburgh.”

hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson

An hour after the race the team looked over the bike and crew chief Rick Matheny still wasn’t certain what caused the brake issue, but he had his suspicions.

“The master cylinder was two races old so at first we weren’t thinking it was the master cylinder,” Matheny said. “We changed the fluid. But I think there is actually something wrong with the master cylinder because after talking to Hayden he said the thing was coming to a stop, like the piston was coming to a stop inside the master cylinder. So, we got a bad product or a product that went faulty and we have to fix it. We have one in stock. We’ll put one on for the next race. Chalk it up to a part that failed. That happens in racing. It’s our first DNF of 2017, and on a new bike I’m pretty happy with that. Not happy having a DNF, but only one, not bad.”

So now it’s back east to Pittsburgh International Race Complex to begin the closing stages of the season. There’s still a lot of racing and Gillim and crew feel the best results of the year are yet to come.

hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson

Sonoma Raceway MVP Results Recap

Session/Race Position Best Time
Race 1 9th overall, 4th in class 1:38.759
Race 2 DNF overall, DNF in class 1:37.926
Current Superbike Standings 11th

Scroll down for even more MVP photos from Sonoma Raceway

hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson
hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson
hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson
hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson
hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson
hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson
hayden gillim motoamerica sonoma race action
MotoAmerica, Round 7, Sonoma Raceway.Brian J. Nelson