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Paul Bird Motorsports Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix Wrap Up

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The Paul Bird Motorsports team arrived at Indianapolis Grand Prix with a ton of work to do, right off the bat. Both Michael Laverty and teammate Broc Parkes had crashed at the previous round at the Eni Motorrad German Grand Prix at Sachsenring, so in addition to the standard routine of setting up the pit box, both sides of the garage had bikes to rebuild. Fortunately, this was a fly-in race and by now, the team has the setup routine down to a science. We broke for lunch Wednesday and since we were making good time, instead of eating at the track, we decided to go out for lunch. This may sound strange, but Phil, Michael Laverty’s crew chief, LOVES McDonalds; he’s borderline obsessed with it, in fact and goes every chance he gets, which in Europe and the UK, isn’t as often as in the US. Well outside the track was a Firehouse Subs franchise and I convinced the team to go there, instead. If you don’t know about the shop, the original Firehouse Subs was started by a couple of firefighters in Jacksonville, FL, my home town. We went in & I started talking to the owner about being from Jacksonville; they took a shine to our team and brought us lunch every day that we were in Indy!

My partner, Victor Morgado Perez, got everything set up Thursday morning and quickly went to work repairing the damage from Michael’s tumble in the gravel at Sachsenring. Lady luck was on our side and we were able to strip clean and rebuild ML1, Laverty’s main bike, with ample time to catch dinner in Indianapolis before retiring to our hotel at a reasonable hour.

Rebuilding ML1 in the Paul Bird Motorsports Pitbox at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rebuilding ML1 & ML2 with Victor Morgado Perez in the Paul Bird Motorsports Pitbox at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Photo by Tony Brown

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Not quite burning the midnight oil- we finished setting up the Paul Bird Motorsports Pitbox and prepping the bikes at a reasonable hour. Photo by Tony Brown

Friday morning, we got down to business with FP1; Michael went out and reeled off a 1:38.399, a little under 4 seconds below Valentino Rossi’s p1 1 pace, which was good for P21 for the session. FP2 delivered better results: Michael finished 2 places up on the charts at 19th and dropped a nearly 3 seconds, with a 1:35.472, but less than 3 seconds off of session leader Marc Marquez’s times.  A cool track with a threat of drizzle on Saturday morning saw Michael Laverty drop back to P23- last place for FP3. We made a few adjustments to the chassis and electronics strategy for FP4 and eked out a 1:35.353, our best time yet, but only good for P22, ahead of Colin Edwards on the NGM Forward Racing Yamaha production racer. We made a few more adjustments over lunch prior to qualifying and Michael Laverty managed to get 3-4 good flying laps before coming in for fresh rubber. Michael pulled up to the pitbox and jumped off the bike; Victor went to loosen the rear axle and disaster struck: the axle nut just spinned, completely stripped. As a result, Michael had to finish Qp2 on ML2, a bike that’s motor was a bit down on power and was not quite optimized for the days’s conditions. At the end of the session, Michael Laverty managed a best laptime of 1:34.814, which demonstrated consistent consistent improvement throughout MotoGP Free Practice and Qualifying, but was ultimately only good for 23rd, last place on the grid. It can be really frustrating at times: we’re working with a skeleton crew and a shoestring budget, with an underdeveloped chassis and a motor that’s significantly down on power, not only to the full factory efforts, but the factory production bikes, too. I’m not making excuses, but Michael has more talent that our results show at first glance, but we’re literally the little team that can and the fact that Michael has routinely bested the factory production bikes demonstrates that we’re able to perform above the capabilities of both machine and our limited budget!

Saturday night, we got a little bit of R&R: Victor Morgado Perez and I headed to the Indianapolis State Fair and the legendary Indy Mile. To get to the dirt track from the gates, we had to pass through the fair grounds and i got a chance to show Victor a big slice of Americana as we wandered the livestock shows in the fair’s Sheep exhibition hall. After that, and a few obligatory livestock photos, I gave Victor his first taste of Funnel Cake and we made our way to the grandstands for the Indy Mile. Now, I’d worked with PJ Jacobsen on a number of short-track dirt track races, but that didn’t prepare me for the spectacle of the mile. There’s nothing quite like seeing these men and women backing their bikes with no brakes into T1 at +120 mph, dirt flying as their bikes squirm and slide sideways on the gas on a narrow ribbon of blue-stained clay. Nothing. Like. it. Ever. I think Michael Laverty put it best: “Been to watch the Indy mile tonight, them boys (&girls) ain’t scared!” Victor and I were joined by my old racing buddies and good friends David Loikits and his wife, Beth Neuer and Tomer Levy, who owns AdrenalineCityRacing.com and makes the Hang-Dry suit dryer that Michael Laverty has been using this season. We managed to chat between heats, and i’m proud to announce that I’m now a dealer for the Adrenaline City Racing and will be servicing Benelux and the MotoGP paddock with the Hang Dry suit dryers. This is a great opportunity- there’s nothing quite like it in Europe (or anywhere else,) in terms of quality and effectiveness.
Sunday morning broke and we made our way back to Indianapolis for the big event. The forecast showed a chance of rain, but we kept our fingers crossed in hoeps that it would hold off.  We made further improvement in the morning MotpGP Warmup, dropping another 2 hundredths of a second, besting  teammate Broc Parkes. Starting the MotoGP race from 23rd on the grid isn’t exactly what we’d hoped for, but when the green flag dropped, Michael Laverty got his best start of the season, going into turn one in 18th place! Michael held his own throughout the attrition-filled race and finished 14th- IN THE POINTS!!! It was great to finally earn points in my “home race,” we’d worked our butts off and it was a well-earned reward.

Below: David and Beth’s pictures from the Red Bull indianapolis Grand Prix:

Sunday night, we treated ourselves to a little more R&R to celebrate our hard earned points and went to the Red Bull afterparty in downtown Indy. My good friends David Loikits & Beth Neuer we able to join and we were fortunate enough to rub elbows and hang out with one of my all-time heroes, “Mr Daytona,” Scott Russell. The next morning, I had to check out at 8 and catch a flight back across the pond. During my layover in Philadelphia, I happened to run into Christian Helmig, a pro mountain bike & road cycling racer from near where I live in Luxembourg. Chris was on his way home from finishing 13th at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup races at Windham Mountain Resort in New York & had formerly raced for Ben Spies’ Elbowz Elite Cycling Team. As a cyclist myself, i really look up to Chris and it was really great to connect with another pro racer who was competing at the world championship level. From Philly, I flew to Frankfurt, where i ran into a group of about 30 Iron Man competitors in the Flughafen. From there, it was off to Prague, then Brno and the Czech Grand Prix- stay tuned for my next update!

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