NEWS: Swimming with the Sharks

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Royal Distributing rider Michael Leon had a difficult debut in the MotoAmerica Superbike series this past weekend, April 13-14. Technical issues and limited track time prevented him from qualifying for the event which requires turning a lap time within 108% of the fastest rider’s time.

Michael and team mechanic, Joe Gervais, made the long drive to Atlanta on Wednesday, set up in the pits on Thursday and enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of the MotoAmerica paddock.  The highlight of the day was attending the riders meeting, officiated by Doug Chandler and surrounded by North America’s top riders.

The MotoAmerica weekend schedule jumps straight into qualifying in the first session on Friday morning.  During this session, Michael focused on learning the track, having never ridden there before.  His best lap was in the 1:34 second range with the leaders running in the 1:25s.  “It was a real eye opener.  The track is really challenging with many blind spots.  I really liked the layout and the high speed back straight.  I got in about 20 laps and was pumped to keep learning the track.” commented Michael.

The second and final qualifying session was on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, on the first flying lap the chain jumped off the sprocket. There was no damage, but Michael was unable to bring the bike back to the pits to participate in the session. “When we headed to tech on Thursday, we had discovered that we needed a chain/sprocket guard, which isn’t required in Canada. I fabricated a crude one out of a piece of heel guard. It likely came off and got sucked into the chain which caused the problem. We had also been missing tank foam, which is another requirement. Luckily, Alex Dumas’ team, helped us with that. I take full responsibility, for not reading the rulebook closely enough. And also for throwing a sub standard fix at the problem. At this level, showing up unprepared doesn’t cut it.” Explained Michael.

Michael had not made the qualifying cut-off in the opening session and had not scored a time in the second and final qualifying session. After pleading his case with the official rider’s representative, MotoAmerica officials decided to allow Michael to practice on Saturday morning to try to achieve the 108% time during that session. If that was achieved, he would be allowed to start.

More trouble struck in the Saturday morning practice when Michael crashed on his 4th lap. It was an easy lowside entering corner 7 and he was not hurt. “I was riding a little over my head, still trying to figure out the best lines and attempting to drop the times quickly. I tried an extra downshift between 6 and 7 to try to get a better run up the back straight and I simply went in a little too hot.” Michael told Joe after bringing the crashed bike back to the pits.

Michael’s best time was 1:31.9 seconds, only 0.13 seconds short of the 108% of that session. Ironically, his time would have been good enough if it had been recorded in the Friday afternoon Q2 as the fastest rider was a little slower in that session.

Having not made the grid, Michael and Joe watched Saturday afternoon’s Superbike race from the infield in the corner 3,4,5 area. Later that day, Michael had the opportunity to meet three time world champ Wayne Rainey, one of his heroes.

“I’m pretty disappointed, more with my lack of preparation than anything else. The level of competition is so high, these guys are up to speed after only a few laps. But that’s the whole point of heading down there, to try to raise the level of my own riding. I can’t wait for another shot.” commented Michael.

The team is preparing for Moto America round 3 to be held at Virginia International Raceway in May.

The Royal Distributing Racing Team would like to thank Royal Distributing, Pro 6 Cycle, Dunlop USA, BMW Motorrad Canada, Windmill Motorsports, Bell Helmets, Joe Rocket Canada, Five Gloves, TCX Boots, Hindle Exhaust, Liqui Moly Canada, Motovan, Performance Friction, Perry Performance, Forsaken Motorsports, Apex Brakelines, GianMajor Inc., Armour Bodies, Woodcraft, MWR Air Filters, Bickle Racing, Dave Smith and Vortex Racing Sprockets. Return to News Page.