Jerry Savoie has been riding very impressively as of late.
Jerry Savoie is fighting an uphill battle against NHRA’s heavyweight Harley-Davidson and Buell Pro Stock Motorcycle riders. The alligator farmer from Louisiana has only been riding in the V-twin dominated class since 2011 but made the Countdown to the Championship playoffs in his rookie season.
After experimenting between riding both his ex-Don Schumacher Racing Suzuki and a Buell motorcycle, he decided to stick with the Suzuki in 2013 and, this year Savoie elected to take on the added responsibility of developing electronic fuel injection (EFI) on the Suzuki bike. While all the V-twin motorcycles in this class use EFI, his is the sole Suzuki using this technology; all the others continue to utilize carburetors.
A switch to EFI
The decision to race with EFI was made late last year after Savoie and tuner Tim Kulungian decided to invest in Vance & Hines’ engine program, instead of building their own. In 2013 they learned how the V&H engine worked with their very different chassis - originally developed by Don Schumacher Racing several years ago - and they made some fundamental changes to their bike to acclimate to the V&H engine.
This year marks their first year with EFI and it also marks a change in the Suzuki’s displacement, as NHRA now allows 1855cc in 2014 (up 100 from last year) for the Japanese brand motorcycle. “This has been a very challenging combination to figure out, together with the change to EFI,” said Kulungian. With the choice of Magneti Marelli or MoTeC units, Savoie and Kulungian decided to go with the latter system, and the change is starting to pay off for the duo.
While they missed the Countdown to the Championship this year by just a few points after being runners-up at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, their late-season upswing has been pretty darn spectacular. Savoie and White Alligator Racing (WAR) claimed their first ever victory at the Midwest Nationals in St Louis last month. Vindication? Perhaps it is, or maybe simply the result of some very, very hard work by dedicated professionals.
Savoie is a mild-mannered sort of guy who plays New Orleans-style Zydeco music in his trailer at the races as a reminder of home. While he’s certainly competitive behind those handlebars at the track, like so many of the NHRA’s competitors he’s easy to get along with and always ready to lend them a hand as needed. But when the visor goes down, Savoie is all business.
Savoie riding a wave of momentum
After his heady first win, Savoie went to the quarter-finals at Reading and went to the semifinals at Las Vegas, where he lost to eventual race winner Andrew Hines. Yes, the guy whose company supplies his engines! Now it’s on to the final race of the year and to make plans for the coming 2015 race season. Savoie and Kulungian will do their due diligence over the short winter recess and be ready when the Pro Stock Motorcycle season begins at Gainesville next March (the third race for the other three professional NHRA categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock).
One thing for sure: the success they’ve had with EFI might be the turning point for the balance of Suzuki runners in the PSM class. It’s really one of the few ways they’re likely to keep up with the Harley-Davidson and Buell riders.