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Sonoma: Orient Express/Celtic Racing preview

Orient Express/Celtic Racing Gaining on AMA Daytona SportBike Leaders Motorcycle performance parts and service powerhouse Orient Express might be better known for their drag racing records, but Orient is also deep into road racing. Partnered...

Orient Express/Celtic Racing Gaining on AMA Daytona SportBike Leaders

Motorcycle performance parts and service powerhouse Orient Express might be better known for their drag racing records, but Orient is also deep into road racing. Partnered with Barry Gilsenan's Celtic Racing, the team is taking on AMA Daytona Sportbike with 16 year-old New York rider PJ Jacobsen. "Both Celtic bikes were built in our Long Island shop in the two weeks leading up to Daytona," said Skip Dowling of Orient Express. "We were also building our new AMA Dragbike Pro Street ZX14 to race the same weekend in Valdosta, so it was a pretty busy two weeks there.

"We're proud to have been working for three seasons now with Celtic Racing and their riders, guys like Chaz Davies, Michael Laverty, Alistair Seely, Kurtis Roberts, Damian Cudlin, Brett McCormick, and now PJ and his Supersport teammate Antoine Richards. Providing support for a successful AMA Pro Road Racing and CCS privateer team like Celtic is a great way for Orient to get some of our products out on the track. The K-Tech suspension is something new we're bringing in, and along with the DynoJet Power Commander, Sato rearsets and other parts, it's a great way to get across what these parts can do."

The season opened with Jacobsen and the team's Suzuki GSXR600 caught up in a grinding, multi-bike crash on the opening lap of the Daytona 200 that left PJ with a broken hand and a note from the doctor to miss round 2 at Fontana.

So Road Atlanta was the first full race of the year for Orient Express and Celtic Racing, and the first AMA Pro race ever for Jacobsen. PJ qualified in the top half of the competitive field, but crashed in the uphill turn 2/chicane complex Saturday morning. "I took a crash this morning on my A bike going into turn 2 and the chicane," said Jacobsen. "It's a little weird 'cause it's blind so you don't know where to brake. Then we ended up going about a second and a half faster on my B bike, but we went back to our A bike for the race and I think the brakes were a problem from the crash. I think it smashed the brake line or something."

Seven laps into race 1, the 600's brakes went south and a dejected Jacobsen was finished for the day. "I think the crash probably led to a little bit of air in the brakes," said Celtic team boss Gilsenan. "So, it's just unfortunate. He needed the track time, but he's getting a little bit closer all the time. PJ's ridden here before on a 125, but being new to the 600 he needs all the time we can get out there. Every time we go out he's dropping quite a bit of time. We thought coming in he'd do his fastest lap times in the race on Sunday with more experience, so we expect he'll be in the .30's tomorrow. Hopefully we can give him a decent bike with no brake problems at that point.

"Right now we're working with two bikes, an A and a B bike. There's some parts of the A bike he likes, some parts of the B bike he likes, so he'll sit down with the guys tonight and try and come up with a plan to piece together the different areas he prefers on each bike and try and give him the best we can come up with. That'll take a lot of playing around between the mechanics and PJ for us to come up with. There's always gonna be a compromise from one to another, but we're hoping to try and get the best package we can for tomorrow. So a lot of times it can go into the wee hours of the morning."

"Stuff will happen overnight and we'll be up there, so don't count us out," agreed Jacobsen. "We'll definitely have something to show tomorrow. Skip's given us a lot of parts and we're just knocking off seconds. It's a new track for me and the whole crew with the new 600's and everything."

Gilsenan started betting on Jacobson when PJ was only 11. "Barry saw me at a Super Moto track by my house in Cuddebackville, New York, and wanted me to get on a road race bike," said Jacobson. "So I got on a 125 and kinda went from there. Went to Spain and did some MotoGP races and stuff like that."

The teenager is living the dream, though professional racing no doubt takes its toll on his social life. "I can't go to school, I don't have time, so I'm home schooled. I'm in the gym training and on my bike every day."

But it's paying off. Sunday's race was the first complete AMA Pro race for PJ, and a twelfth place result amongst a very competitive field of 31 on a bike the team is still sorting out is more than encouraging. "With about seven laps to go, my clutch just came in," reported Jacobsen, who was able to maintain track position nonetheless. "I had to push the clutch back out on the straightaways.

"But we were running an OK pace for my first AMA race. We were right behind (veteran racer) Geoff May, so everything was going pretty good. It's just a bummer, the last seven laps with the clutch. But we still put in a good result. It was just a rhythm the whole race and felt pretty good to get the 20 laps in, so my fitness is really good, I just need to improve. These other guys have a lot of laps around here and years of experience, so they know where their turning points are and stuff like that. They know where all the blindness is and where to put the bike, and that's the biggest thing I was struggling with, the blind turns. When we come back here next year, I'll definitely have the track down in my head. We just need to improve every time we come to the racetrack and we'll be up front at the end of the year."

"Today we're very satisfied," agreed Gilsenan. "We felt confident we'd get into the .30s and he was able to get there today, so we're getting closer, you know. And it's great experience for him. That's his first finish in an AMA Pro event, so we'll take that. We're happy.

"So we know where we need to be. A little bit more work and we'll get there. I'm very happy to see him able to run the pace there with Geoff May, and we're going in the right direction."

"He's a rookie amongst top pro guys, so he did quite well to get 20 solid laps in, all within a half second of each other," said Dowling. "So he can go back now with some confidence and get ready for the next race in California. He's got a promising career ahead of him. He's gotta pace himself up to speed, learning the ends and outs."

"We still have a lot of work to do with the bike," added Gilsenan. "We're new to the 600's and we tried two different combinations this weekend on the A and B bikes. So now he knows which part of each bike he likes and we'll put those combinations together for the next race."

"The next race is Infineon," noted Jacobsen. "That's a new track for me, and definitely a new track on the Suzuki for us. We're working towards our goals and we'll get them by mid-season."

"Infineon will be difficult," finished Gilsenan. "He's never been there and it's a tough track to learn in an hour, but the kid's up to the challenge. He'll be good for it."

Jacobsen was good for 5 wins out of 5 in 600 Supersport at the CCS Championship Series event May 1 and 2 at New Jersey Motorsports Park

The Orient Express sponsored Celtic Racing team and PJ Jacobsen race next May 14 -- 16 at the West Coast Moto Jam at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California

-source: oe/cr

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About this article
Series AMA
Drivers Kurtis Roberts , Geoff May , Chaz Davies , Michael Laverty , Brett McCormick , Damian Cudlin