When the Jason Grima Motorsports/PC Cranes Buell Pro Stock Motorcycle made its competition debut at the opening round of the 2014 ANDRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship it came with plenty of hype and interest.
But it also finished up in a sad state when rider Tony Hinkley and bike parted company following a crash during eliminations.
Thankfully both man and machine are repaired and ready to compete at the Winternationals this coming weekend.
“It wasn’t the best of times for JGM in Melbourne and the crash was the icing on the cake. Only problem was that we weren’t celebrating,” said owner Jason Grima.
“The bike was stripped down to a bare frame and put on a jig. My crew chief Steve Stanley had made a jig prior to the crash just in case we had problems. Thankfully it saved us time and the expense of not having to send it back to the US.
“The good news was that the chassis was okay. It was just bar work that was ground down from the track that needed to be replaced, and some steering components. The main damage was the side cover of the motor and all the carbon fiber that was cracked or smashed. There was about 64 hours in repairing that, plus paint.
“The wheelie bar was also damaged. We ordered a new one from Kosman and they had it air freighted here, but unfortunately turned up at the shop damaged. This saw us cancel a planned test session at Sydney Dragway prior to the Winternationals.
“We rescheduled for June 2nd, but unfortunately Tony couldn’t make it. Despite not having the opportunity to put the bike on the track, we are confident that the bike and rider will be a-okay.”
For Tony Hinkley, the Perth based racer has always held onto a dream to compete in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“I attended the Frank Hawley Drag Bike School in association with George Bryce at Gainesville in 2013 as part of a US trip. It was this experience that cemented my thoughts to run in the premiere class,” said Hinkley.
“I was on the hunt for a bike to bring back to Australia and had my eye open for a Kawasaki. They are a dying breed in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but I believe in variety and as far as I’m concerned, the more variety the better.
“During my search for something competitive, I tracked down the Buell and Jason and I started negotiations in late 2013. It was a case of right time-right place and over the last six months, this led me to test the bike at Sydney Dragway and obtain my ANDRA Pro Stock licence.
“I felt humbled by the opportunity to ride the bike and was looking forward toworking with Steve Stanley (crew chief) and crew members Denis Ackland (also mentor) and Rick Wood.”
Moving onto Calder Park, the weather and track were challenging to say the least. Hinkley admitted he was a little surprised by the conditions of the facility but added that he had been spoilt racing in Perth and Sydney, plus seeing Willowbank Raceway as a spectator.
“I was happy to not run the second qualifier on Friday night due to the cold conditions and track temp, particularly after learning what the right lane was like on Saturday,” said Hinkley. “The decision not to compete in the last qualifier was a good call by Jason and our team and was reinforced by ANDRA when they cut the night short.
“I think the team learnt a lot from the previous outings and the changes made to the tune up were positive steps. The last run was very strong to just past half-track and everything felt comfortable. But the bump mid-track upset the bike big time and it was difficult for me to focus and get it back under some sort of control. I then took out the timing markers, which further upset the bike and saw myself drifting further left towards the wall.
“I’m sure the sand, rubber etc. against the wall contributed to the front wheel washing out, resulting in me dropping the bike at an estimated 100-150 mph (241 kph). I was grateful for Maurice Allen’s riding skill and evasive action, which kept us apart. And also his instant concern once I stopped sliding and came to rest.
“The safety gear did its job well with a few scrapes, quite a few bruises and some pinched nerves. The latter was the biggest concern, which required ongoing treatment and physio.
“To be honest I was amazed that ANDRA sanctioned the meeting at Calder and having watched the video numerous times, I don’t think many riders would have done any different. Maurice also hit bumps in his lane, which also rattled his bike. He was leaning away as I did, but in the opposite direction to stay out of my lane.
“Upon my return home from Calder, I did some soul searching and questioned if I would continue but my wife Kylie encouraged me to get back on the horse. The only challenge is that there are over 300 of them to climb back onto.
“Jason Grima Motorsports and Steve Stanley have done a fantastic job to rebuild the bike. It sustained considerable damage, but thankfully no terminal or structural damage. So the good news is- the Buell is back.
“I know my first ride at Willowbank will be a little nervous and tentative, but the plan is to build up slowly. I have been in touch with George Bryce in the US and had a discussion about my riding. He was a wealth of knowledge and help, so hopefully I can put all the advice into practice.
“It was frustrating not being able to make the X Champs at Sydney but I just wasn’t well enough to compete. I sustained nerve damage in the crash and it is a slow and painful road back. My safety equipment did a good job and the only other injuries were a slight burn to my knee and a black fingernail. I’m now feeling fit enough to get back on the bike again.
“The Winternationals will be a great experience. I have only been there once before in 2008 to watch friends race, so it will be a great experience to actually race at Willowbank. The Winternationals is one of the biggest events in Australia and the track is fast. I am looking forward to some good times from the Pro Stock Motorcycle brigade.
“The bike is nothing like I have ridden before. The torque is incredible and will take some time to adjust.
“The aim is to improve over the season to a point where I can do our sponsors, along with Jason Grima Motorsport’s commitment, some justice and run some fast competitive times. This is a quantum leap for us, but the professionalism and friendliness of the team has made it easier. I’m really excited about this opportunity and the future.”