The Racing Bad, The Racing Good, Part 2

The best part of racing isn’t the winning.

Philip Chovnick and Mark Morrow
The Next Gen Lightweight Superbike race and AHRMA's NJMP round were a battle royale between me, Philip Chovnick (left), and Mark Morrow, all on distinctly different machines. See the story for more info, and check out this video that Philip put together using four cameras on two bikes.Etech

Last week I touched on the downside of racing while describing a recent crash; this week the upside of racing crowds out the bad in this column and in my life. This upside is visible throughout the AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) paddock and was especially apparent in garages 10 and 11 at the New Jersey Motorsports Park last week.

For this 57-year-old motorcycle lover, AHRMA is a chance to race interesting bikes against like-minded people surrounded by friends known and unknown. The seriousness of racing is on the surface, the joy of life swims underneath. Winning is the goal but just being on the grid has a satisfaction that lasts for months. There’s a glimmer in the eyes of the participants, the tuners, the crew, the AHRMA staff. And that glimmer says, “We are the luckiest people in the world at this moment.”

Garages 10 And 11

My best pal Brian Smith rented garages 10 and 11 and we filled it with friends fast and new. Rob Cichiello and his son Robbie joined us and earned podium trophies—dad on a Duc 848 and son on a Suzuki SV650. Brian added five podium plaques, including three wins aboard his Moto Corse 796 Monster, and the Paul Smart we have examined here on Ienatsch Tuesday a few times. I chimed in with a pair of wins in the new Next Gen Lightweight class on the Speedwerks Honda NSR250. I hope you have a chance to watch the vid of Saturday's extremely fun race.

Glenn Picklesimer had a spot for his SV650 and enjoyed his third-ever AHRMA round on a track he had heard about but never seen. Glenn is a longtime street rider and rider coach who has caught the racing fever very badly! Welcome to the addiction. Stephen Wilson, an N2 Track Days Rider Coach and Robbie Cichiello’s MotoAmerica crew chief, was the sixth member of our garage on his SV650. Unfortunately, YCRS owner Josh Siegel had a business emergency that pulled him away from us and his KTM. Next time, Josh!

Pictures Tell The Story

The author with Steve and Seth
Who's the luckiest guy in this picture? (Hint: blue hat.) Two weeks before the race, Steve Long of Speedwerks called. "Hey, I got a bike for that new Lightweight Next Gen class… You in?" You might remember Steve's RG500/RGV250 project? Well, I do, so when this guy calls, I'm always in. This '92 Honda NSR250 arrived in immaculate condition. Both Longs have raced it, Steve on the left, son Seth on the right. We did one needle change, lowered the rear brake pedal, quickened the rear rebound, and went racing. A perfect example of Steve Long's professionalism is the matching stands. This guy does things right.Etech
Steve Long
My start on Saturday was so bad that Steve Long went through the MC21’s dry clutch (but it was all my fault). Yes, it’s an SP-model NSR250 that includes the dry clutch and close-ratio transmission. Speedwerks has fitted HRC F3 cylinders and pistons, with HRC reeds, but otherwise it’s a stock engine in SuperSport trim to meet WERA requirements…since Steve won the WERA Grand National Finals on this thing a few years ago. Dave at Speedwerks redid the fork and Penske shock while Tyga-Performance is responsible for the exhaust, rearsets, and bodywork, except for the tailsection; that came from an MC28 “because it looks better,” Steve says. This Steve Long guy reminds me of a Carry Andrew guy: They build race-winning equipment that works right out of the box…with a finish that could win a custom bike show.Nick Ienatsch
Mark Morrow on the yellow RZ350 and Philip Chovnick on the red EX500
This was Saturday’s eight-lap war! Next Gen Superbike Lightweight is such a cool class because so many bikes are legal. Here is Mark Morrow on the yellow RZ350, Philip Chovnick on the red EX500 and me on the NSR.Etech

Mark Morrow’s RZ runs Mikuni flat-slides, 65mm Wiseco pistons, Spec 2 pipes, Hinson clutch with “the” Scott Clough doing the work with Tony Doukas’ technical help. The chassis is trick too: FZ600 swingarm, Bandit 600 rear wheel, Penske shock, and Katana 600 fork redone by Traxxion Dynamics, with an SV650 front wheel and GSX-R750 brakes. Morrow runs on Bridgestone R11 DOTs. Pure heaven for two-stroke lovers, and it has won Morrow a lot of races and championships in AMA, AHRMA, and WERA; eight last year alone. Morrow’s main sponsors are: SCR, Worldwide Bearings, Fast From The Past, Moto Tassinari, Hinson Clutch Components, TDR, Cycle Gear, VO2 Leathers, and Bridgestone Tire.

Chovnick's EX500 has a box-stock engine but runs a Honda F3 front end and Ninja 600 swingarm with Pirellis mounted. Philip is one lucky kid because his dad Ben Chovnick does all the building and tuning out of the family's shop, Motoconsult in Mansfield, Connecticut, and dad put Philip on a CRF50 when he was 5 years old, complete with slicks! This family effort has combined to win two USCRA championships on the EX in Period 4 Formula Middleweight and Period 4 Formula 3. The 22-year-old just graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a bachelor's degree in film and TV. And to prove it, check out this great video Philip put together of our Saturday race.

Ducati 796 Monster
I met Brian Smith more than 30 years ago and those decades have been pretty special, but Brian’s first three AHRMA wins this past weekend will be hard to top. The 62-year-old commissioned Chris Boy’s Moto Corse to build this Ducati 796 Monster that can run in a pair of AHRMA classes each day. Brian took his new bike to his first AHRMA win, then backed it up the next day and added a third on his Paul Smart. In the two classes he didn’t win, Brian took second.Etech

See that helmet just above Brian’s left shoulder? That’s Robbie Cichiello on an SV650, fresh off a second-place finish in the WERA endurance when he teamed with his dad Rob the week before at Roebling Road Raceway. Behind them, and tough competition all weekend, is Bill Brown on an air-cooled Pierobon tuned by the meticulous Brian Sharp of Boulder Motor Sports.

1,000cc Paul Smart Ducati built by Moto Corse
Smith’s air-cooled 1,000cc Paul Smart Ducati built by Moto Corse has been revised over each of the past three winters, adding horsepower and eliminating weight in typical Smith fashion—methodical and exact—to produce a 325-pound bike snorting out 130 hp. A titanium pipe by Ron Mangus is the highlight, but Brian fabbed up a trick aluminum catch tank/crankcase breather and enlisted the unlimited experience and skills of Phil Seiberlich, a main component in Doug Polen’s Ferracci success.Etech
hockey shorts
When things go wrong and bodies leave bikes, a pair of hockey shorts under your leathers is welcome protection. I had a great weekend despite a tough Friday thanks to Alpinestars, Arai, a homemade chest protector (old Kushitani back protector cut to fit), and these shorts. I also want to thank luxeStar VIP's Scott Rehl for the support of our TZ750 racing over the years.Brian Smith
Bike at AHRMA event
Racing, crewing, or spectating, you will find wonderful items to ponder at AHRMA events.Nick Ienatsch
shaken vodka martini
Nothing says, “Thanks for your awesome work and patience with our stupidity during sign-up,” than a shaken vodka martini! Brian Smith pours a chilled thank-you for Elli Klein of AHRMA. Huge appreciation to all AHRMA volunteers and crew for giving us special places to race.Nick Ienatsch
Etech’s Bob Hartman
Here’s a picture of the guy who gets the pictures: Etech’s Bob Hartman. He snapped podium pics during the Saturday evening awards banquet where everyone gathers to cheer and jeer. I accepted my awards quietly but wanted to start a “two-strokes rule” chant. Bob told me Sunday that shooting motorcycles and hanging with motorcyclists makes him happy. Amen.Nick Ienatsch
Brian Smith, Seth Starnes, and Rob Cichiello
Brian Smith (left), Seth Starnes (middle), and Rob Cichiello make it an all YCRS-instructor podium. These three were among the quickest riders at NJMP, all on big Ducati twins, with only Ricky O’Hare on the Chris Hartman-tuned Honda RC51 going quicker. Ralph Staropoli had his new Honda RS250 rolling well in Open Two-Stroke too.Etech
AHRMA test track
There are many cool classes at AHRMA and many of us pick the bike first, then find the classes it competes in. I was a full-time magazine guy from 1984 to 1997 so my interest in those bikes is very high. This new Next Gen Lightweight Superbike class is a catch-all for that era, a time when motorcycle evolution was pretty impressive. The Honda was on rails and a joy to ride—isn’t that why we do it?Etech
Donut martini
It’s easy to rush from one thing to another—go racing and then rush to get to work Monday—but somewhere in that rush we need to pause for a breath of appreciation of how lucky we are. I’ve joked about celebratory vodka and donuts in this column, so Smith made me the perfect after-race treat. I will never take a successful racing weekend for granted; it’s hard work mentally and physically before and during the event. But Sunday night after a race weekend is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world and I hope you celebrate those moments with me.Brian Smith

Conclusion

“The racing good” isn’t winning, though that is pretty special. For those I know, the racing good is your relationship with cool machines, facing your nerves and fear in a truly risky environment, and putting your skills to a real test and ensconcing yourself in a community of almost universally wonderful people.

I’d like to get my knee on the ground, pull a few wheelies, line up in anticipation of a green flag surrounded by noise and nerves…and be in the hunt, leaving my best effort for that day on the track. That’s the racing good for me, and AHRMA delivers it.

More next Tuesday!