JT: In the grand scheme of things, it's really not that long only 10 minutes, but the amount of turns is massive. Same for Isle of Man. I got the video game and played the sh*t out of it. Until I was sick of i. It prepared me for understanding the turns, but in a game it's not natural speed. It'll show you left rich, left right, but you're not going to feel the road, its surface, condition, where to apply speed or the Gs.
RA: So, were you able to pick up a lot of things from practice?
JT: When I got there I was confident where I was going, but applying where I'm going and then getting two inches from a guardrail at speed, it kind of breaks your concentration. The top is bumpy and really rough, but you don't experience it until you get there. You have to pick your way through the mind field in a way.
RA: How was it running against big teams like the Ducati guys?
JT: We were a little bit smaller by numbers, but I felt confident in our preparation level was equal or greater than anyone there. When I crashed the bike I was able to jump right on a back up and qualify. Our crew consisted of me and two mechanics from Kawasaki and then Jody Scheuring, my main guy.
RA: What's your day job?
JT: I just resigned from it being my shop. This Pikes Peak deal, at the time, was my job. I've owned a performance shop for the last 16 years. I decided to try something else and get rid of the shop and start a new venture, time for a change and starting it off with a win at Pikes Peak, doesn't suck.
JT: A 2004 supercharged BMW M3, it makes me smile, good balance, smoke the tires once in a while.
RA: Are motorcycles all business for you?
JT: It's always been the two reasons race each other on the side. i started in the motorcycle industry because I liked riding bikes. Once i started racing i got into the technical side and figuring things out. In the last few years, when the economy wasn't nice to the industry, I really took that side of it. My mechanic and I will go to the track to experiment. To keep it fresh and keeps learning, I love racing, but i love the technical side too, that's hand in hand. We've designed a lot of parts for the ZX10, I was lucky enough to do that. That's just as fun to me as racing.
RA: Tell me about the bike. You built it yourself with help from Jody who built the engine?
JT: Yes. The bike started life as a stock 2014 ZX10R and for the most part, it's still fairly stock. What we paid attention to was cutting weight with carbon fiber wheels, and titanium and aluminum hardware. It weighed 362 pounds after it was rolled off track. [Stock it weighs around 430 pounds].
The next biggest thing was motor. A lot of people worry about horsepower at Pikes Peak. It takes a good motor, but not just out-right horsepower. Joe Consumer can buy a sport bike and drive off lot with 180-190 hp, in the grand scheme that's [a lot]. Our real focus was to make a friendly, usable power that was able to get off turns well and get through the altitude. We changed cams, upped compression and port and polish. It's still producing 190 hp, about 10-15 down from the show circuit motors, which are a little over 200 hp.
It was so friendly and easy to use. You could spend extra attention to dealing with the road and not the motor. Other guys were fighting a monster in the motor to get the power down. That's one thing I didn't want to do.
RA: Pikes Peak next year?
JT: I plan to return to re-up what I said about learning. I have to be honest, I'm happy with our results, but I'm not happy with [struggles for a moment]… I think we missed the mark on set up and understanding the bike. It was so new it caught us off guard a little bit. I think we could have been so much faster. You sit there and figure things out and now, I'm dying to try them next time.
RA: Do you think you left some on the table?
JT: 100 percent, no question. I left a ton on the table. Not only bike set up, but me personally. I could grab five percent more on a dozen different areas across the board.