Rookie Life in AMA Pro SuperBike
NEWS September 15, 2011
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Rookie life in AMA SBK by Jordy Burgess
So there I was, finally in the land of opportunities, arriving at LAX ready for the big year ahead in AMA Pro Superbike. I didn’t have a car, home, or anything to my name…. Just a gear bag, some clothes, my personal savings and a contract signed to ride a Suzuki GSXR- 1000 for Team ADR Fly Racing run by Australian rider ‘Aussie’ Dave Anthony.
In 2010 my first season as a pro in Australia was littered with injuries, a few bouts of surgery. I was robbed of some confidence and the pressure as a Rookie on the Australian factory Ducati Superbike team was too great, and I was given the flick by the team. Looking back, I think this was a blessing in disguise as I have always dreamt of coming to America to race in AMA Pro Racing . This could be my chance.
The glamorized AMA Pro series has always attracted me. Ever since I was a kid reading in magazines about the MX and SX guys like Jeremy McGrath and the road race guys like the Bostrom brothers and Mat Mladin tearing it up, I wanted to be a part of it. All I thought was everything is bigger in the USA, and road racing is bound to bounce back from sales slumps and the GFC and I could start making some money back from the sport which my family has sacrificed so much on me for. .. I thought, “Top 10… easy! These Americans won’t know what hit them!” I look back now that I have done a full season here and realize how naive I was. These guys are amazing riders, and have been riding the same tracks for years with state of the art machinery and support. I now realize it was never going to be easy for a rookie Aussie on a low budget team...
After getting my sleeping and living arrangements sorted for the time being, which was a couch in a motorhome in the backyard of Dave’s place, we headed for our first test at Daytona International Speedway where I got my first taste of AMA Pro Racing. I was so excited seeing the double-decker trucks, riders, teams and the banking on that bloody track for the first time I almost wet myself in excitement! The test went well and I was happy with my Suzuki GSX-R1000. Daytona is a really cool track, it’s very simple and fast! You can really push the bike hard which is what I love doing. Riding towards the banking for the first time was a rush. One second you’re freaking out as you don't know what to do when you hit the steep bank then all of a sudden you’re on it with your chest and helmet flattened on the bike at up to 2.2 Gs at 190mph!
The first race there I finished 14th which was awesome. After the race I was pumped and ready to celebrate and found my way to the bar to have a beverage, and low and behold, I saw my adolescent idol - the **** hunter! We got talking over a few Budweiser’s and exchanged some notes on our chosen fields of profession which was entertaining! Overall a pretty cool start to a good season ahead.
Our Bikes that Dave Anthony had built himself were running similar in horsepower to the other SuperBikes as they can only run certain selected performance parts in AMA Pro spec, however the biggest difference between us and the factory guys is the level of electronics. There’s no cap on the level of electronics allowed so for us running just a simple EM pro box and no TC, it was always going to be an uphill battle to run up front. Our team consists of two main riders, three mechanics, a driver and sometimes another hand if we were lucky! It’s a tough ask for a team trying to look professional and put on the set up we do when it is normally only 3 or 4 of us setting it all up but we made it happen.
Gearing up for the 20,000 miles I will be doing throughout the season, I bought myself a little Isuzu SUV for $3000. I wasn't sure if it was going to last but she’s still kicking on!
From the West to the East Coast, I traveled with some of our crew and we had an absolute ball, stopping through places like Las Vegas, Milwaukee, and Chicago on our way to tracks as I managed to convince people at every place we visited that I was a Aussie sheep farmer. I found that profession much easier to explain than being a pro SuperBike racer .. as the general public here has no idea what a SuperBike is, never loan understand an Aussie accent!
Racing fans here differ in each of the states we visited to race at. At Miller, there really wasn't much going on yet at the track, whereas at Ohio or Laguna-Seca, the crowds were loving it! Ohio was crazy!
Off the bike, I was loving it. However, on the bike .. it was a different story. For the first few rounds, when trying to get up to speed and riding around equipment flaws, I found myself having a shocker with two DNF’s at Infineon and Miller (Crashing in the qualifying session and races which meant zero points for two rounds).
I thought at Miller that my luck on track would change, however during the race I pushed too hard through a turn and lost the front end and found my butt DNF’d yet again! It was a killer blow. I was trying so hard to get noticed, however, I just couldn't hold it together so it seemed! Now it’s time for me to re-evaluate my strategy. I had come to the realization to make a name for myself here it was not going to happen overnight and I need to just be a bit more patient and ride smart.
From Road America, Wisconsin, on until the abrupt end of the season at New Jersey I had consistent qualifying runs and top 15 finishes with my best finishing 12th. I improved at every round to finish 15th overall despite the DNF’s. Unfortunately, 2 rounds got cancelled, Virginia and, what was supposed to be the final round somewhere. I thought it was funny that the other teams and racers just accepted it too. I didn't get it, I was paying to race this year I was infuriated! Yes, that’s right, not everyone here, nay, only the top 5 or 10 guys are getting any sort of proper return from our sport. It’s a real shame, but that’s the way racing is for now unfortunately all over the world. It makes it tough and sometimes you have to ask, for what am I sacrificing all this for? But it’s simple, as a racer, if you still have that burning desire to race and chase the dream, you must do it while you can and take any and every opportunity you can being smart about it.
I am thankful to have this opportunity with Team ADR for 2011 and have learned so much as a rider and am looking forward to next season. However, I have no ride as yet and need more personal sponsors to be able to compete and keep charging hard. To sum it all up, the AMA Pro Racing competition is a tough one and is a great feeding ground for the world championships. My goal is to continue racing here next year and build upon my knowledge and experiences I have taken from this year!
For now, however, I am off to Oktoberfest to sample there beers and spend a few days in Europe with some friends!
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