By: Rob Thompson
I first met Sam Trepanier at St Eustache in 2016 or 2017. I was trying to find a quiet place to pitch my tent, and he was taking a break on his mountain bike from the stress of racing. I remember him saying how much work it is to find and keep sponsors, and keep a team running. He was so focused. I’ve chatted with him many times since at CSBK races, so when he called me a few weeks ago to see if I was available for the season as a team mechanic I jumped at the opportunity! Many thanks to our mutual friend Doug Lawrence for making the connection.
My first Blysk Racing Team race was to be MotoAmerica Round 3 at Virginia International Raceway. After picking up some Dunlop rubber at nearby Pro 6 Cycle, and a 12 hour drive (lesson learned…the scenic route is great during the day on a touring bike, but otherwise, take the Interstate!) and a few hours rest, Sam and I spent the Thursday in the hotel parking lot changing steering head bearings and doing some general tuning. Sam’s truck let him down for several hours en route so we ended up working past sundown, but progress was made!
Friday was another long day of setting up and wrenching, in particular a chattering clutch that we pulled apart 2 or 3 times over the weekend before we got some direction from Alex, chief mechanic at Weir Everywhere Racing and sorted it out. But the eye opener for me was the scale of a MotoAmerica race! The paddock was like a small city. Most of private teams looked to have more resources than the factory outfits! The weekend schedule was truncated to two days (a first ever try from MotoAmerica), with no track time until Saturday morning 8:30, starting with qualifying-practice sessions. It was a hectic scene. With a mad rush of preparation, we made it to Friday tech inspection just before closing.
With Sam’s girlfriend Bea not able to come to VIR for the weekend (her first time missing a race since 2015!), his mom Claudine drove down with mechanic Paul-Etienne Courtois and arrived Friday 8pm. Saturday was a 6am start for us, and the grey sky and dark clouds looked as though they were ready to deliver the predicted rainstorm at any minute. But the rain held off for Saturday’s track sessions, and Sam put in a strong qualifying performance for a first timer at VIR, dropping lap 1 seconds every time he hit the track. In Race 1, lap time improved again and we finished 11th.
A big part of my Saturday was brakes. New titanium pistons were installed in the 4 pistons/4 pads Brembos, with of course full attention to cleanliness and a fluid change and bleed. Brakes, brake fade, fluid, pads, master cylinders, thermal management... Nothing in the motorhead world looks so simple, yet elicits such a variety of contradictory expert/experienced opinions as brakes. This is from my previous personal history, as well as my racetrack experience. No two guys have the same opinion. As much as I try to take the objective, fact based approach to this subject (as well as everything else!), I never get to the point where I can say I have a confident grasp of the science. That’s where guys like Steve Schiebe, mechanical engineer at Hayes Brakes, help out. He had recommended the titanium pistons, which appear to be designed to minimize heat transfer to the fluid. Sam declared them a success the next day, although a change to Castrol SRF racing fluid was also part of the job, so once again... I’ll ever know for sure!
The stress of working at the racetrack is a perverse part of what I love, and that stress stems from the fact that for a mechanic, rider safety is always top of mind. I’m constantly aware that I’m working on a set of brakes (or any number of other things) that are going to be relied upon at 280 kph. Sloppy work is not an option, and with the track schedule paramount and the resulting time pressure, maintaining focus is key. I’ve experienced the desperation of waiting for my rider to come in on a red flag, and the panic that sets in after about a minute and a half. Not fun.
Like all these race weekends, the post event memory is a blur of fixing, rushing, stress, burned fingers, and fatigue. Jon Cornwell, who has always been amazingly helpful and patient with me with my dumb noobie questions, stopped in to give Sam some advice on offset changes, and that’s what Sam, Pauley and I were working on Saturday night when the heavens opened up. We got the remainder of the tent/awning up in a hurry. It was after dark, and as we continued helping each other with lights, searching for wet tools, I realized that we were in the middle of a small river flowing under our encampment. At the end of the night, there was no way I was going to sleep without a hot shower and a beer. I passed out in my tent, mercifully dry, listening to the roar of rain. Uber tired.
Sunday was all about predicting weather. I’m a big fan of using online radar weather at the racetrack, but Sunday at VIR a coin toss would have been just as good. The rain came and went, the sun came and went, the track dried out, then more rain. Sam had respectable practice Sunday morning on rain tire but on a drying track. After some Clouseau style, inconspicuous hot pit reconnaissance of the big teams and what they were doing with tires, we went with rains for the main event. Sam high side crashed on the sighting lap, and for a brief moment we were done. But, for a team with a winning mentality, it’s always too early to quit, so after a bit of gardening, some fast fixes, and another smile at the tech girl, we were back on the grid!
The rain tires initially looked like a pretty good call..….at one point Sam was in 5th place! Pauley was ecstatic, waving the pit board, but as the track dried out the guys on slicks pulled away. We finished 11th again, with some pretty rough looking tires!
All told, a great weekend. The Blysk Racing team is looking forward to CSBK Round 1, May 17-19 at Shannonville!
Samuel Trepanier, Beata Marszalik, Claudine Benoit, Paul-Etienne Courtois and Rob Thompson would like to thank the following sponsors who are onboard for the Moto America project: Moto America, Carrier BMW (Sherbrooke, Drummond, Trois-Rivières), Öhlins USA, Weir Everywhere Racing, M.M. Carrosserie & Mécanique, Lettrage T2 Design, Pro 6 Cycle, Dunlop Motorcycle Tires USA, Hindle Exhaust, Bickle Racing, Turcotte Performance, Pat Moto Sport, Dominion Tshirt, Hotbodies Racing and Sportbike Track Gear.
To follow the team's efforts internationally, follow on Instagram @Samuel_Trepanier or the Facebook Page Samuel Trepanier. For more information, please consult www.SamuelTrepanier.com
From a press release