Triumph Daytona 675 Project Bike - Goldenrod - A Hard Day's Night

Part 2: Our Triumph Daytona 675 Sees AMA Combat At Infineon Raceway

In our last issue we detailed the transformation of our '07 Triumph Daytona 675 into a Formula Xtreme racebike using Triumph's kit parts ("Goldenrod," Aug. '08). With the bike complete and a track day at Auto Club (formerly California) Speedway under its belt to find any gremlins, our plan for Part 2 was to find a racer capable of a top-10 AMA finish to ride the 675 in an AMA Formula Xtreme event. It was a good plan. But like many good plans ...

Our rider search led us to 21-year-old Chad Lewin, a former motocrosser who currently rides Suzuki GSX-R machinery in WERA and AMA events and has been roadracing for just three years. But in those three years young Chad has racked up a fistful of wins in club races as well as a top-10 finish in an AMA Superstock race, and he came recommended by some influential people in the industry. As a bonus, there were no conflicts with existing sponsors, and Chad was very familiar with the Pirelli tires used on the Triumph.

Our ragtag team-at that point consisting of Chad, Eric Nugent (who put the bike together in his garage) and I-headed to Buttonwillow Raceway Park for a local WERA race that would let us all get acquainted before heading to the pressure-cooker AMA event at Infineon Raceway. Since the Triumph's initial shakedown run at Auto Club Speedway, Hypercycle's Carry Andrew had installed replacement kit valve springs and added more compression to the engine by skimming the head, and we were anxious to see how the bike would perform.

Conveniently, Buttonwillow is Chad's home track, eliminating that unfamiliarity from the equation and allowing us to concentrate on dialing in the bike. As we knew from past experience with tall, wide 16.5-inch rear slicks, finding a good setup can take some time: In brief, the tall rear tire requires lowering rear ride height to keep geometry in a reasonable ballpark; the tradeoff, however, is that swingarm angle is decreased, sacrificing antisquat and causing the bike to run wide on corner exits. This resultant seesaw experimentation to find a happy medium is especially crucial on the Triumph, as the rear end is already quite high and the swingarm angle somewhat flat in stock form.

Over the course of two days at Buttonwillow, Chad got on well with the 675, citing a definite advantage in midrange grunt when compared with the four-cylinder 600s at the track, with top end only slightly down from the frontrunners. Eric and I chipped away at the bike's setup, and for the last race of the weekend we found a workable compromise that allowed Chad to turn a lap just one second off his best-ever time at Buttonwillow on a race-prepped GSX-R600 and challenge for the lead. But a discharging battery was causing the bike to cut out in corners, and just as a maiden win looked possible our race ended in a cloud of dust.

With only one week before the Infineon round of the AMA series, we had to scramble to repair the bike, but luckily damage was light, with scuffed bodywork and a bent rearset the most apparent. The troublesome, tiny 675 battery was replaced with a larger battery from a Yamaha R6, curing the electrical gremlins. At this point we drafted SR's Test Fleet Manager Michael Candreia to help. He, Eric and I soon had the bike repaired and ready to go. With Chad uninjured and the bike fixed, we were on our way to Infineon Raceway with high hopes.

Those hopes were almost immediately dashed in Thursday's promoter practice, as the Triumph-fine at Fontana and Buttonwillow-was, according to Chad, unrideable at undulating Infineon. No amount of juggling ride heights, springs or damping got us any closer to a workable setup. We even went so far as to use the stock rear wheel and a DOT-race tire to eliminate the big-tire variable, and while we made steady improvement over the first day, the 675 was still a handful. Other Triumph racers and teams we talked to all use offset triple clamps, adjustable swingarm pivot inserts or both to widen the bike's setup window, and in hindsight those parts should have been high on our list of modifications. Unfortunately, pivot inserts for the 675 are not readily available, and having a set custom-made is an expensive proposition. Ironically, the '08 bike's stock pivot inserts are offset, but they won't fit in the '07 frame. Still, we were making steady progress with lap times and looked to be within the qualifying cutoff based on the previous year's times.

Adding to our frustrations, Chad came into the pits halfway through the last practice session with the engine firing on only two cylinders. The usual checks of fuel and electrical connections showed nothing amiss, but a compression test revealed that the No. 1 cylinder had dropped an exhaust valve-evident from the broken guide visible in the port. With no spares on hand we were dead in the water as far as the kitted engine was concerned and would have to replace the engine or head home. Was our AMA weekend over before it had officially begun?

Luckily, stowed away in the trailer was our '08 Daytona 675 test bike, which we had brought along for rolling spares-although we were anticipating using simple things like a lever or fastener and not the entire engine. Once the decision was made, it didn't take long for Eric and Michael to drain the fluids and drop the engines in both bikes. To minimize the impact on performance we slipped the STM slipper clutch and kit rotor assembly out of the race engine and into the stocker, and within a few hours we had a running (albeit much less powerful) motorcycle.

Friday-the first official day of the event-dawned clear and hot, and we continued to be dealt low cards. While the kit parts in the race engine's transmission shifted smoothly and easily, the stock motor's gearbox was so stiff that the Woodcraft rearset's double-jointed linkage was unusable. Chad wasn't able to log a single complete lap in the one-hour practice session, and because the FX schedule is compressed into two days-with the race on Saturday-we'd be going right into qualifying that afternoon. We cobbled together a new linkage using the stock shift lever to remove the double joint, rerouting the shift rod outside of the frame and reducing effort to something acceptable. Shifting was still very awkward, and Chad managed only a handful of laps in qualifying before the shift rod bent. Luckily his best lap was under the 110 percent cutoff time and good enough for the 22nd spot on the grid of 28 riders. While our hopes of a top-10 finish had dropped along with the race engine's valve, we were glad to have qualified with a bone-stock motor-although nerves were frayed and everyone's frustration was evident.

In Saturday's warmup session we were happy to sit on the pit wall and watch Chad string together more than two laps at a time before coming in for changes, as he had been doing in every session up to that point. The bike was down on power and still a handful, he reported afterward, but at least rideable. And the mechanical gremlins resulting from the engine swap seemed to be sorted. Incredibly-and ironically-with the stock motor Chad's lap times were a full second quicker than his best time using the kit engine.

We went to the grid quietly hoping for a top-15 finish, a reachable goal given some attrition up front, but the frustration was clear in everyone-on Chad's part because he is easily capable of much more with a workable package, and on our part because we couldn't give him that package. For the first few laps Chad did an admirable job to dice with Shane Narbonne for 16th spot on another Triumph-this one fielded by the very professional Team S-Works, backed by the Commonwealth Triumph dealership in Kentucky. But our 675 was losing power from the beginning of the race, and on lap nine it stopped running altogether-the stock motor had also dropped valves in the No. 1 cylinder.

While we were all disappointed not to finish the race, there was almost a sense of relief that the hard weekend was over and we could pack up and head for home and a chance to regroup. We're somewhat baffled that our race engine-a straightforward build using kit parts-and the stock motor both dropped valves in the No. 1 cylinder. The 675's handling woes can be addressed with some chassis parts, but reliability is a big question mark; clearly there are issues that need to be addressed before we return to the track. Our bike showed some definite promise in its original outings, however, so a return to the track is just what we plan to do. Stand by for Part 3.

In addition to the numerous suppliers (listed in last issue's installment) that supported our effort to build the bike, we had a great deal of help at the track: Bob Robbins and Bruce Meyers of Team S-Works graciously answered all our questions and lent us the tools and parts. Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction Suspension Tuning ( races a 675 himself and helped with our setup issues. Hattar Motosports ( in San Rafael provided the special tool and removed the rotor from the stock engine. And WERA racer Amber Rimes ([www.amber](http://www.amber lent us her trailer and professional pit setup for both events.