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For 2023 I returned to the Super Hooligan class for its second season in MotoAmerica aboard my KTM 890 Duke R, as well as a new challenge in Supersport aboard an MV Agusta F3RR. Getting ready for Super Hooligans wasn’t too difficult as I already had an established program racing the KTM, however starting from scratch with the MV was going to be a tall task. The challenge was exciting though and my sponsors and I were up for the job!
The first round of the year for me was at Daytona on my KTM in Super Hooligans. Supersport was at Daytona for the 200, but I had only gotten the MV a month prior to the race, so our goal for debuting that bike in Supersport was Road America a few months later. Race 1 for me in Super Hooligans went okay. I got a great start and was in 2nd place, but as soon as we got on the high banks I got left in the dust by the 1250cc Harley and 1200cc Indians. I finished 5th place going almost 3 seconds a lap faster than I did in 2022 when I won the race. To say I was discouraged would be an understatement. For race 2 Super Hooligans decided to allow the smaller displacement bikes like the KTM’s to not have to meet the minimum weight rule of 397 pounds, which allowed me to take over 30 pounds of lead off my bike. The difference was noticeable as I was hanging in the lead pack the first couple laps of race 2 until the red flag came out. On the restart, I crashed a couple corners into the race. I was able to remount and finish 13th. Tough go at Daytona!
On the MV Agusta F3RR front, the big challenge was sourcing parts in a timely fashion. It took about 2 months to get the required MotoAmerica electronics in hand, as well as the kit transmission and valve-springs required. We had to order a custom aftermarket radiator, and source some parts that were not easy to obtain. Of course we ran into some troubles with some parts not working and even some electronics not working. We missed our target of getting the bike ready for Road America the first weekend of June. The build came down to the wire just a little over a week before the Ridge Motorsports round of MotoAmerica. Fortunately I got a couple days riding the bike at a club race to get acquainted with the MV and get it set up the weekend prior to the MotoAmerica round at the Ridge. EDR Performance did a great job with the build and I adapted to the bike immediately. We knew the bike would be gorgeous and it certainly lived up to the expectations.
The Ridge round of MotoAmerica hosted races 3 and 4 of the Super Hooligan series, and it was my debut in Supersport on the MV. I had an impressive qualifying effort of 6th place which put me on row 2. Jumping into a class as competitive as Supersport against riders who have been competing all year on bikes they’ve had a ton of time on is really tough, especially on a brand new bike like the MV. Fortunately the Ridge is my home track, so I had that going for me. In the Super Hooligan class, I got pole position which was definitely my expectation. But the factory Indian riders were right there with me making it challenging.
Race 1 of Supersport was amazing. I got a great start and was battling for the top 5 for almost the whole race. I got a ton of tv time. I ended up dropping back a little bit to 6th place because the tire went off halfway through the race. The setup on the bike wasn’t totally dialed in yet and we still needed to get the tire to last like everyone else. But we were stoked on a 6th result. Race 2 was similar to race 1, but our tire fared worse. If I remember correctly, we tried a different compound and it wasn’t the right choice. I finished 7th. Still good for our first weekend, but we were hungry for more after showing we could fight up front on the bike! We just lacked track time with it. The Super Hooligan races went well for me, I got the holeshot in both but just lacked a little pace at the end compared to the Indian riders. I think my nerves got to me a bit with having the pressure to win as the hometown rider. I got 3rd in race 1 and race 2. However in race 2, the riders who beat me got disqualified and I was declared the winner. All in all, a great weekend at the Ridge!
Next up was Laguna Seca, my favorite race of the year and possibly my favorite track. I had a killer weekend in Super Hooligans, taking 2nd in race 1 and almost winning! Jeremy McWilliams and I had an epic battle. In race 2 I got a 3rd place finish despite having a clutch problem. Getting on the podium at Laguna was super special. On the MV, I really struggled at Laguna to find a gearing combination that I liked. I tried different gearing every time I rode on the track, and I would find that it worked great on one part of the track, but was lacking in another. Another challenge was that this round was the 37 lap extended race weekend with a required pit stop. We didn’t have any quick-change axles or a quick-fill tank, so our pitstop was almost a minute slower than everyones. Despite that I managed a 10th place and was within a second of my best lap time for the entirety of the race! I had a lot of fun. For sure the result would’ve been better if we had been prepared for the pitstop as I was faster than a good amount of riders who finished ahead of me.
The final rounds of Super Hooligans were at Circuit of the Americas in Texas. I was 3rd in points, about 16 down from the lead and about 15 up on 4th. COTA was a fun but challenging track due to the long straights. Being down on power, it was going to be hard to beat the Indians. I qualified 3rd and finished 3rd in race 1. It wasn’t the best race for me, I had clutch issues all weekend in the extreme heat we had down there. But the finish secured 3rd in points for me which was my goal for the weekend. In Supersport, I qualified 9th. The field was so close in laptimes and this too was a tough track for the MV. I felt like I had the bike working well, but
MotoAmerica still had the bike restricted via the electronics too much, and it lacked power compared to the other bikes. In race 1 I was getting passed on the front and back straight by at least one rider every lap which was really annoying. I was having to make overtakes back on the brakes or in the corners nonstop. I think I had about 12 overtakes in the 7 laps I did before the red flag came out and the race was ended. I finished 11th. I was pretty disappointed. I love riding the MV but it feels like the same battle I have racing against the Indians in Super Hooligans. In the midst of the race, the MV started developing some shifting issues and was coming out of gear on downshifts.
In the morning warmup Sunday, we tried to fix the MV but the problem got worse. The quickshifter sensor went bad, and a spare we were able to obtain from another team was determined to be faulty as well when we tried to fix it. My races were back to back with one another, and ultimately I decided to skip race 2 of Supersport so that I could do the podium celebrations after my second Super Hooligan race. There was zero time between the races for me to be able to do the podium and make it out for Supersport unfortunately. In race 2 of Super Hooligans, I kept Jeremy McWilliams honest and was able to finish a solid 3rd place with one of my best rides of the year. I tried hard to beat him, but it was too much for the 890 to overcome at COTA. Had I been able to beat him, I would’ve been 2nd in the championship. But I was really happy with 3rd! It was a great accomplishment for my small privateer team against a full factory effort of Indian. There are a lot of challenges when being part of a privateer effort, and some of those challenges kept me from making the final round of Supersport at New Jersey. I didn’t miss much there though, it rained both races there. It maybe could’ve been good for me, since my first ever MotoAmerica podium was there in New Jersey in the rain on an R6. But it also could’ve been disastrous with very little spare parts if things went sideways. All in all, I am proud of the effort I was able to make with the help of Competition Werkes this year in Supersport on the MV. The bike has a lot more potential and I wish I was able to show that. My KTM Super Hooligan effort took priority for me, so it was hard to give the MV as much attention as I wanted. We will see what next year holds though!
Big thanks to Shawn, Ward, Matt, and the whole Competition Werkes crew for the support. It is awesome to have a local Oregon business supporting me. 2023 was a really great season and I really enjoyed racing both the KTM and MV. They are totally different bikes and riding styles, but I feel like they compliment each other. My lap times between the two are close as well for them being such different machines. I for sure like the sound of the triple-cylinder with the Comp Werkes exhaust best though! I think the fans would say the same. Cheers.
Text by: Andy DiBrino
Image by: Moto Matt