No Quitting the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series for the Canadians
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Go Big Racing Suzuki team had every excuse to throw in the towel during last year's SunTrust MOTO-ST Series -- budget concerns, injuries, schedule conflicts. But the plucky Canadians persevered and their reward was second place in the Sport Twins team standings.
The team will aim to go one better when the 2008 season opens with the Daytona 300 at Daytona International Speedway on March 2.
Although Go Big Racing only came into existence in 2006 and had no experience of motorcycle endurance racing prior to its SunTrust MOTO-ST Series debut, the squad finished on the Sport Twins (ST) podium in all but one of the six events in last year's title chase. The Suzuki outfit managed to take the title battle down to the last race at Daytona but came up just seven points short to the Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki effort led by veterans Jay Springsteen and Jimmy Filice.
"It was a lot of fun and a heck of an experience," said Ross Millson, who along with Paul Glenn handled riding duties for most of the 2007 season. "We raced on some amazing tracks and met a lot of interesting people."
Millson and Glenn were up and comers on the Canadian road racing scene when they ventured to Daytona in the fall of 2006 to compete in the first ever race for the new and exciting endurance championship, the inaugural 8 Hours At Daytona.
"The whole team was mostly Paul's idea," said Millson, a 25-year-old from Hamilton, Ont. "We raced together up here and we had become friends. We needed a team name for the eight-hour and that's where we came up with Go Big Racing."
The squad entered two Suzuki SV650s for the race. Millson and Glenn teamed with another young gun, Karl Daigle, for third in the ST class.
Although the team didn't have the budget to run a full season last year, they came back to Daytona for the March season opener, where they were third again. That was followed by a runner-up finish in Round 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and another third place result at Virginia International Raceway.
"We were excited to do so well in that inaugural race, and that kind of got things going for us," said the 24-year-old Glenn, who hails from Keene, Ont., a town about two hours north of Toronto, near Peterborough. "We thought if we kept doing well, we'd keep doing it, and it got to the point where we kind of had to keep going."
The budget worries were only part of the story, however. At VIR Glenn was hurt in a practice fall and Millson had to perform ironman duties, riding for two hours of the three-hour race.
Then shortly before the fourth round of the series at Road America, Millson sustained a nasty leg injury. He suffered a highside on his Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike and the footpeg punctured his right leg, badly damaging his hamstring. Despite the discomfort of that injury and a pair of falls in the race, Millson and Glenn salvaged a third-place finish around the daunting four-mile Road America circuit to keep their championship bid intact.
The SunTrust MOTO-ST Series continued the following weekend at Iowa Speedway, but Millson and Glenn also had a commitment to the Parts Canada Superbike Championship national round at Mosport International Raceway. With Glenn leading the Amateur 600 Sport Bike standings and Millson trying to pick up points toward the Pro Rookie of the Year Award, there was no question of the pair missing the Canadian event.
Fortunately, they were able to enlist the help of fellow SunTrust MOTO-ST Series racers Joshua Smith Moore, Steven Green and JB Layman for Iowa. The trio brought the Go Big Racing Suzuki home fourth, meaning Millson and Glenn still had a shot at the ST title heading into the 8 Hours At Daytona finale.
"After Road America we were still in the points and it took a bit of a scramble for Iowa," Glenn recalled. "We are really thankful to those guys. They did absolutely what they had to do to keep us in the chase."
For the 8 Hours At Daytona finale Go Big Racing brought back 17-year-old Daigle to partner Millson and Glenn on the Suzuki. Millson was again battling injury, this time with a broken bone in his right foot.
The Canadian team seemed to get a huge break in the race when the championship leading Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki crew suffered an engine failure, but the team had already completed enough distance to clinch the ST title. But a race win was still in the cards for Go Big Racing when a dead battery caused the engine to shut off on Daigle as he came off the throttle in Turn 1, leading to a big crash less than 10 minutes from the finish.
"We were mainly glad that Karl wasn't hurt, and we knew the accident didn't have to do with anything Karl did," said Glenn. "But we showed everybody that we could do it. It's too bad it happened but we made a point."
"Anytime you can finish on the podium at Daytona it's a big deal," Millson added. "The first year we were thrilled to finish third and to get on the podium in two eight-hour races is a pretty good record. Scott Laidman built both those motors, and it says a lot about the work he did."
Along with excellent reliability, a key to Go Big Racing's success in 2007 was effective race strategy. The SunTrust MOTO-ST Series brought the use of a Safety Car and full course caution periods to motorcycle endurance racing. While some teams struggled to learn how to take advantage of the system, the Go Big Racing crew caught on quickly, partly due to the stock car racing experience of Millson and his brother and crew chief Mark.
"We made up entire laps on the field in some cases," Millson said. "The last race at Daytona was a perfect example. We made up almost a whole lap on the SpeedWerks.com team. Blaine Groves and Mark were on the scanner, working out strategies, and it made a heck of a difference."
Go Big Racing is still trying to finalize a budget for the coming season and is anxious to build on its 2007 success. Should the Canadians campaign a full season, they will undoubtedly be a threat for the ST team crown. In the meantime, they will be back at Daytona for the season opener with backing from Infinet Web Designs and Summit Gearworks, trying to get the victory that slipped through their fingers last fall.
"We learned a heck of a lot about endurance racing last year and there's room for improvement," Millson said. "We want to come back and beat those guys [Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki] straight up."