This year at the United States Grand Prix at Laguna Seca we took the time to have a little chat with Jake Zemke of the American Honda Superbike team (Superbike was one of 4 AMA classes running that weekend in addition to Moto GP).
This is Jake's third season in superbike and his second as an official factory Honda rider. The uphill battle with American Honda's in-house superbike development program continues but they've been steadily advancing and Jake scored their first win of the season back in June at the newly-built Miller Motorsports park in Utah.
Jake talks a little bit about the development effort as well a few items of interest outside of the AMA Superbike championship.
TOV: How has the CBR been in terms of getting it setup, has it been really difficult, [is it] very sensitive to setup changes?
Jake: Basically in 05 we took the development of the CBR1000RR in house. So where we used to just lease bikes from Japan from HRC, that were full on race bikes, they showed up and basically we uncrated 'em and we went and raced 'em...to last year they were literally unbolting turn signals off stock street bikes that you buy at your local dealer. And we just basically had taken everything and made it and sourced parts.
The guys at the shop have done an awesome job but you know it was a real struggle last year but this year its definitely paying off, there's been a Honda on the podium every race but one so far this year, and we just got our first win there in Utah at the last race so things are definitely coming around.
TOV: Has it been an enjoyable challenge developing the bike yourself because back when you had HRC bikes you were winning more but, just like you said they came off the crate and that's it.
Jake: I think its more gratifying for all the guys at the shop for sure. I mean, you know they're actually the ones putting in hours and you know they're the ones that are developing everything. We've got our own R&D department in house now, there's three guys that are involved with that. Its...definitely more gratifying for the guys I'd say, I mean you know its their work that's getting the bike to the front. And uh, instead of just changing parts out they're actually making stuff, developing stuff, throwing all of their ideas at it, seeing what works.
TOV: How about the difference between the 06 and 05 CBR[1000RR] because there was a mid-cycle update and you guys were racing the 05 and now you're [campaigning] the 06, what are the big areas where the 06 is better?
Jake: You know from the racing the standpoint its a little bit harder to say because we've changed so much from last year to this year. We've changed suspension manufacturers and we've actually changed so much stuff on the bike. A lot of the areas that they worked on from the 05 to 06 on the street bike was you know, losing some weight, gaining some mid-range power and a lot of that stuff doesn't carry over to our side because our bikes are already [at] minimum weight, they've already stripped them down completely and a lot of the areas where they did save some weight...you know if they go to a little bit lighter wheel on the production bike that won't help us.
It'll help the guys in the Superstock class quite a bit but its not gonna help us on the Superbike as much because we already changed all that stuff anyway. So a lot of the areas that got improved from 05 to 06, it will help the guys on the Superstock bikes [and] the guys on the Erion bikes but its definitely not so much of a help to us.
TOV: So it's kind of wash?
Jake: For us yeah, but like I said for the Superstock guys it helps and obviously on the street end of it, it was a huge improvement from 05 to 06