Happy New Year I suppose is the way to kick things off for the first Pitt Stop column of 2017, or ‘buon anno’ in Italian as everyone I am dealing with and working with at the moment is saying.
Being the only non-Italian in Team Puccetti apart from the riders I have to struggle by in my version of the Italian language. There is always the upside of the lunches and dinners at the team workshop. Mr Bike Review himself always likes to know that I am eating well.
On the bike front obviously through the months of November, December and January there is not a lot happening on track but it is probably the busiest months for the rest of the team trying to get everything ready for a couple of late January tests in Europe. Then we throw everything into the flight cases to be picked up by the freight company to get taken to the airport and sent to Australia for the final test and then Round 1 at Phillip Island.
Let me start by saying that building a Superbike from scratch and without much material help from Kawasaki has been, to put politely, bloody hard work. We expected a lot more help from Kawasaki but the way it has always worked is that if you can show them you are willing and able, and can get a good bike up on it’s feet so to speak then help slowly arrives.
We have had some information come through but regarding chassis parts the route we have taken for now until more official material becomes available is the BSB bike of Leon Haslam that GB Moto campaigned in 2016. A lot of their chassis parts like triple clamps and fork angle adjustment and pivot position have been copies of factory parts by engineering firms in the UK.
All the parts we can get exactly the same as the factory bike we have chosen to buy. For example the same Showa suspension, the same Brembo brakes and discs and the same spec Marchesini wheels.
As part of the rules we are able to buy the same electronics as the factory team and they must supply the maps so this also keeps us pretty close to their guys and every Friday we start with Jonathan Rea’s start map and depending how good our electronics guy is, it determines how much he is allowed to modify things. Kawasaki run a schooling service for all the electronic guys working for all the satellite teams so that they are up to speed before the season starts.
The biggest grey area though that is the hardest to control is the swingarm. Factory swingarms are not available to buy so there are many supposed copies out there and it is a matter of who has the latest information from Kawasaki and how the various swingarms perform on track.
Hopefully a drawing of the factory swingarm will eventually flow through and we can go and get it made somewhere.
We have again chosen the BSB bike of Haslam as our guide since those guys made the bike work very well in all conditions without any form of electronics last year, so we think that is a great place to start. In theory that swingarm is a copy of around a 2013/2014 factory arm.
We have also been approached by Kalex who basically run the Moto2 class and they would like to develop a swingarm project with us and this is something that can eventually be as good or better than what the factory have.
The main issue with all of this hand built prototype stuff is that it takes a lot of time and you never need just one of them. If you buy one you must buy at least two for spare parts. Hand built fuel tanks take a couple of weeks to build and no one keeps them in stock because they are such a unique item. We have one on our bike at the moment and should have another two ready by the end of January to take to Australia and Thailand.
Cast your mind ahead to testing in January in Spain and if we wreck any bikes, that would mean reaching Australia with no spare parts… Not worth thinking about because if there is one thing we have learnt, it is that it doesn’t matter how big your pile of money is, if the parts are not available you can’t have them.
All that aside it is still an exciting project and we are looking forward to getting the bike on track in Spain. Hopefully Krummenacher turns up ready to go after all this work and we can kick off the season in Australian with a couple of solid points finishes.
I am excited to come out a little earlier to spend some time at home in Port Macquarie with my eldest son who is coming along with me for trip this time because his and my birthday are always on the Phillip Island race week and I haven’t been home for his birthday yet. No problem this time though as he will be there with me and running around Cowes with my parents and Jake Rea.
Come and say hello at the Island!