At Road America with Local Expert Motorcycle Racer – Sam Kok
Team Kok / Placon Kawasaki 6/6/2018
Our first MotoAmerica Stock 1000 race at Road America was a success! Breaking my hand/wrist and a bump to the head two weeks prior we had no idea if it was even going to be possible. I was pretty down but after getting cleared from the doctors just two days before the weekend I made the decision to go for it. If we were going to fail, we wanted to fail trying, rather than not trying at all.
We had a lot to learn. It didn’t help the bike was still coming together hours after arriving at the track. On Friday we didn’t pass tech during the first go through. I overlooked the note regarding safety wiring the caliper bolts and my red number plates were in my other family vehicle. It was all remedied by the end of the day and we were ready for tech the next morning.
Saturday morning was misty and cool. Track conditions were not ideal and I still wasn’t 100% sure if I was going to be able to push with a bum hand. The team had the bike together and through tech. Now it was up to me to ride. The first few laps were simply feeling things out and as practice progressed I was able to up the pace a bit and get in a rhythm. I found out quickly that heavy braking and left turns was going to be my weakness. Luckily I’m familiar with the track and I was able to compensate elsewhere. We ended up 10th fastest which gave me some hope that qualifying was possible.
Saturday afternoon the mist baked off and the sun came out from time to time. Qualifying session 1 was after the first Superbike race which was blistering fast so we knew there was grip. It was time to push for some good laps and get the business done as Sunday’s weather was iffy too. I was able to drop about 5 seconds from practice times.
I came in after the 7th or 8th lap as my hand was on fire. The team told me I had qualified by about a second. I took a drink of water, stretched out my hand, and decided to try to put in a few more flyers. On the 3rd lap I had a moment between T12 and T13 and decided to come back in. To the teams dismay I was putting in my best sector times and would have dropped some valuable time if I had completed the lap. Regardless we decided to wait out the last few minutes of Q1 and hope the front runners didn’t drop 3 seconds. Luckily they didn’t and we were still in the game.
Sunday morning was sunny and little warmer than 24hr prior. We knew the fast guys and gals were going to drop the times even further. I was not going to be able to ride around, I was going to have to get back to work. My hand was feeling OK and I was figuring out how to manage my ring and pinky finger which would not completely grip the bar or the clutch lever. Bike was feeling good too and we pushed a little more. I was able to drop another second or more which solidified a spot on the grid in P14. That was a huge weight of the shoulders. The team worked so hard against a lot of odds and so many organizations helped us get here so it felt really good to make the big show.
The Superbikes had another great race and we were up next. Gridding up on the track was a unique experience. Having the team out there on the grid and seeing their smiles was gratifying too. There were a few riders with similar qualifying times and the plan was to stick with them and maybe give them a hard time as the race progressed.
It was race time. When the lights went out we had a pretty good start and I was able to jump up a few positions but by T3 we settled in. By T5 the front runners already had a good gap. I was still next to the riders I wanted to keep close. On the third lap it was time to start dicing it up. Stephan Dolipski and Roi Holster could out brake me at will into the hard braking zones in T5, T8, and T12 but I was able to out accelerate them on the large straightaways. For the last half of the race we took turns leading at different points on the track. In T5 on lap five Stephan was able to out brake me on the inside. Roi was going for the outside when our lines were about to meet. He had to stand it on one wheel and take the run-off. I’m thankful for his evasive maneuver and he was able to continue the race however it put Stephan and I out of his reach. The last lap between Stephan and I was pretty fun. He passed me again into T5 but I was able to keep it close all the way to T8 where he made a mistake shifting. That put me right on his rear tire all the way through the carousel and set me up nicely into the bend. My front tire slid on the right turn through the bend but a quick push with the knee and getting on the gas popped the bike back up. I was still close enough and passed Stephan just before we tipped the bikes to the left around Kettle Bottoms. I took a really defensive line through T12 and braked until my wrist was screaming! My last sector times were pretty good and T12-14 is one of my favorite parts of the track. I made sure not to let up as I knew he was right behind me. I was on the gas as early as possible and got my weight over the front out of T14 to ensure I had a good drive to the finish. I didn’t see a wheel and when I went over the finish line in 11th place it felt like we just won the race. The team was cheering from the pit wall. It was hard to describe the emotional feeling.
I could not have accomplished this alone. First and foremost thanks to Mary, Joey, Ella, and family. They are the foundation in which all of this is built upon. Without them it is not possible. Thank you for believing in me even when I doubted myself. Team Kok!
Thank you to my supporters and sponsors: Placon Corp, MadWraps, Leo Vince USA, Quicksilver Products, MotoVid.com, SouthEast Sales, Scholze Family Beef, Trackside Suspension and Engineering, and Bell Helmets.
Thank you to my team: Mark H., Gary B., Jason H., Adam S, and Will S. Your encouragement and organization kept me focused on what was ahead. We had a steep learning curve but I knew you would overcome and everything was covered. You rock!
Special thanks to Bill K. for some last minute transportation needs and parts and Mike R. for putting my bike back together. Jason at Farrell Performance for double checking and “burping” my motor. John at MotoVid.com for expediting some new parts to keep the bike Stock 1000 legal. Josh at Customeyezd LLC for fixing my smashed bodywork in a pinch. Dan G. at Placon for giving us a place to stay that weekend.
Thanks to my “track family” and race fans for making it out to the race and supporting me and all the other racers. And lastly thank you to MotoAmerica and safety crews for putting on a good show.
It’s time to let the dust settle and make some decisions on what to focus on for the rest of the 2018 season. We’re currently looking at the MotoAmerica season finally at Barber in September. Follow my Facebook and Instagram pages (below) for updates. Thanks! Sam Kok Follow me on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook “Because life is better on two wheels, my mission is to promote motorcycling through sport, education, and life long enjoyment. I strive to be a positive force on and off the racetrack.” – Sam Kok
Photography: Brian J. Nelson, Gary Bausch, Elliott Higgins, Ryan Nolan, and Joe Kok.