G2's Ellis Runs 6.91 and Wins! Chip Ellis continued his blistering pace aboard the DRAG Specialties/S&S Cycle Buell, running a jaw dropping 6.911 at 193.21 mph in round 1 of Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations and winning the NHRA Fram ...
G2's Ellis Runs 6.91 and Wins!
Chip Ellis continued his blistering pace aboard the DRAG Specialties/S&S Cycle Buell, running a jaw dropping 6.911 at 193.21 mph in round 1 of Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations and winning the NHRA Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Teammate Matt Smith also ran very well on the Torco Race Fuels/Skull Gear Buell, qualifying right behind Ellis and just outside of Sonoma's own 6 Second Club in fifth. Smith then had the misfortune of facing his red hot teammate in the second round.
"It was perfect weather to run fast," said Smith, and G2 was the perfect team to use the conditions to fullest advantage.
6-second Pro Stock Motorcycle passes were a rare occurrence until last weekend in Sonoma, where the top four qualifiers all passed the milestone and Ellis put a string of them together on raceday. Soothsayer George Smith of G2 and S&S Cycle predicted a shower of 6-second passes going into the weekend, and so it was.
But no one foresaw a breakaway number like the .91 Ellis ran on Sunday. "Looking at all the data, everything looked perfect," Ellis reported about the pass. "The clutch was perfect, the air-fuel was perfect, and I rode it perfect. It was the perfect run in the perfect conditions. Everything just clicked. It really just felt like a regular run, but it was so smooth. All the smooth runs don't feel that fast."
"I couldn't find any faults," agreed G2 tuner/crew chief George Bryce. "There wasn't any improving on that run."
Ellis did have a gentle push on his back, as Sonoma's winds were blowing in his favor that round. "The first round we were the eighth pair and the tailwind got stronger and stronger each pass," said Bryce. "Chip's burnout smoke was just covering him. When he ran the track was literally downhill."
Then came the second round pairing between Chip and Matt, with Chip running a 6.986 to advance. "That's the way it rolls," said Matt. "I thought my lights were good this weekend. I didn't have a .000, but an .03 and .04 should win races unless someone takes chances at the tree and runs a number to back it up."
By now the wind had switched directions, and as the tailwind giveth, so shall the headwind taketh away. Chip slowed dramatically to a 7.152 in the semis, but still beat quicker Craig Treble with an .015 to .034 holeshot. "I was really glad that I beat Craig on a holeshot," said Ellis. "I think that was the highlight of the weekend for me."
The headwind reached its peak for the final between Ellis and number 3 qualifier Antron Brown. "For the final, the wind was blowing just as hard as it had been round 1, but in the other direction," said Bryce. "Chip's burnout smoke looked like he was going 30 mph. The smoke was streaming behind him into the staging lanes."
The final was over immediately, as Brown went -.009 red. If Antron had rearview mirrors on his Suzuki, he would have seen Ellis slow as parts scattered across the track. "The rod broke and shot out the bottom through the oil pan," said Ellis, who pointed out that it was the first failure of its kind in all of the S&S Pro Stock motors so far, including all that have been bought or rented.
"In the two years we've been running these engines, we've not had a single serious internal engine failure until this one," agreed George Smith.
6-time national champion crew chief Bryce was able to pinpoint the exact genesis of the breakdown. "When we ran at Denver and the bike wouldn't shift, Chip had it against the rev limiter (9900 rpm) for a full second. We figured the piston touched the head pretty hard at least 100 times. That's enough to crack a rod bearing cage."
"We're constantly trying to improve these S&S motors, and strive to make them as reliable as possible while making more power," said George Smith. "But I don't care if they're made out of kryptonite, if you're on the rev limiter that long and kissing the valves, you're gonna break some parts. I think it fatigued the lower end of the rod, especially the rear rod."
Strikingly, S&S already had an upgrade to the part in production when the break occurred. "In the last few weeks we've started using a new alloy for those rods, and we're replacing them as the motors get serviced," continued George Smith. "We're already ahead of the ballgame, and we'll have an even better alloy available down the road."
Shaken, not Stirred
Although all of the S&S Pro Stock motors are virtually the same, like identical twins they can develop different characteristics. It seems that one motor in the G2 trailer, serial number 007, is an overachiever compared to its siblings. "We started the weekend in Sonoma off with number 023, which is a good engine," said Ellis, who had a best of 7.013 through the first three qualifying rounds. 007 was sitting in the corner of the trailer, beckoning the team with its 6-second charms despite the high-revving experience in Denver. The team couldn't resist and the payoff was immediate--a 6.998 for Ellis in Q4. "After qualifying, we knew there was more in it 'cause we missed the clutch tune-up."
And there was more--6.911 more. But this mechanical romance was doomed to burn itself out by the end of the day. "When we put the engine in for the last round of qualifying at Sonoma, little did we know the rod bearings only had 3 or 4 runs left in them," said Bryce. "Hindsight's 20/20. When it went 6.91 I said 'That thing's not hurt.' It went 6.98 and I said 'It's the headwind.' Then it went 7.15 and it was screaming 'Take me out!' But we only had 38 minutes before the final after we finished the data download. There wasn't time to take it out."
And it didn't matter, as Ellis collected the win anyway. Bryce rejects any notion that the team was lucky to win. "I know why Antron redit, because of all the numbers we ran up to that point. He treated it like he had to go triple 0's and run an .06 to win.
"In retrospect, our Suzuki motors all went low ET of their meet right before they blew up. But we'd never blown up one of these S&S motors before, so we didn't know what they'd do. Derek Churchwell back at the shop reminded me also that we used to junk our Denver cranks after the stress of running in the mile high conditions."
"We lost at Denver due to an equipment failure, and we won at Sonoma due to Chip's riding and the forced errors of the other teams," summed up George Smith.
To Brainerd with Momentum
007 will live at least twice, and be reassembled in time for the next race in Brainerd. The G2 team will continue to try and replicate that motor's performance throughout the S&S line, and will also try to bring Matt Smith's bike up to par with Chip's. "Out of nowhere, the electrical gremlin we'd cured in Matt's Torco/Skull Gear bike resurfaced," said Bryce. "So we're rewiring the whole bike for Brainerd."
"I am disappointed that my bike isn't running as fast as Chip's," admitted Matt. "But we'll get that fixed." Matt, who ran 7.000 last season, figures that the Reading event will be the next one where conditions will be right to put the Torco Race Fuels/Skull Gear Buell into the Mickey Thompson 6 Second Club. Both Matt and Chip advanced in the point standings after the Sonoma weekend, and Ellis took over the lead in the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle.
"We're very, very pleased that we're able to put on a good show for DRAG Specialties, S&S Cycle, and Mac Tools," added George Smith. "It's our sponsors that make it possible for us to be here."