By Marcus McBain


On March 25th, Danny Kelsey and I evaluated how we were going to get a motor together in 17 days as the previous motor appeared to expire with a suspected "dropped valve". We were both disappointed that the motor appeared to "drop a valve" as we have a "very tame build" that has been derived from running GSXR's for over 8 years straight.  


Here is what went on with the team with 17 days to get a motor together with the following conditions (1) most likely parts cost and availability would prohibit "our motor" from being repaired in time for ECR, (2) If the motor we installed as a replacement didn't run competitively, there was no sense in racing, and (3)  If we borrowed a motor that was likely a "hand grenade" sense in racing.


Actually getting a motor together under the listed conditions is pretty easy (theoretically). We only needed a stock motor that could pass leak down with no more than -5% on any cylinder. The "theoretical" is that any motor that was a available was not lying around because it worked "perfectly fine". Anyway, here is the rundown of the hectic 2 1/2 weeks and the work that went into Danny Kelsey making round #3 in the CMRA sprint championship series. 




I talked to Danny over the phone and we were already making contingency plans for all the work that might, could, and/or should take place with getting a motor "together". We both went over what exactly happened. Danny mentioned, "...that the motor just started sputtering and making the same sound/noise as when we had the motors dropping valves back in 2008." 


Danny shut it down as quickly as possible because what happens when you "drop a valve" is that the valve generally breaks right were it meets the guide and THEN if you continue to try and run the motor...YOU NOT ONLY HAVE A DESTROYED HEAD, but the valve usually puts a hole in the piston and now debris starts wiping out the cylinder and lower end. AGAIN, you shut the motor off as quickly as possible to prevent a "$2,000.00 motor repair" turning into a "$4,000.00" motor repair or worse.


Complicating matters was that Danny was preparing his new house that he has to move in by the first week of May. Danny had planned on taking care of the painting, plumbing, floors, and final prep work in the Kitchen over these next three weeks...and oh yeah, Danny works 40 hours a week too. He was effectively "not available". We decided that he would drop the motor off to Billy Wiese with WRW Racing to get it torn down ASAP and we would find out what was wrong with the motor. I would take of everything from there...mostly. 


At the same time I would start sourcing used motors and/or parts. The first person I contacted was Sam Romeo with Sam's Cycle Salvage in Houston, Texas. Sam is a veteran in these situations and with his son (Chris Romeo) being the 2007 CMRA #1 plate holder, they would both understand exactly what we needed done and under the conditions that it had to be completed. Sam and Chris immediately offered up a spare head they had laying around as well as an incomplete 750 motor that was sourced from a shop that didn't tighten up the oil drain bolt during a service. Although the motor appeared fine, they had to replace the motor at the customers request. 




We also called one of our competitors to see if they still he still had the 750 motor left over from the 2010 season...and yes he did! OK, we thought for sure we were on a roll. Within 3 days we had 2 motors identified, the motor dropped from our bike for inspection, and I was prepared to go to Austin to finish putting the bike back together while Danny finished his house. Well as you might expect, all plans were blown out of the water by the end of the week. In order, this is what occurred:


A.    Billy Wiese tore down the motor...and FOUND NOTHING WRONG WITH THE MOTOR. Believe it or not, this was bad news as it meant our problem with one of several components including the wiring harness, ECU/FI systems, position sensors within the motors, etc. (Despite the motor being in good shape, we likely would not have a good "re-assembly" as Suzuki was back ordered on the gasket kit among other parts and valves NEEDED to be replaced. Putting the motor back together without new valves likely would have created a "hand grenade" situation)


B.  The motor that our competitors had offered us would cost about $2000.00 to make Superstock legal on top of the $1400.00 for the purchase of the motor. That option was out.


C.   The motor Sam & Chris Romeo had was a "partial motor" in that it was not actually "together completely", in fact the head was "throw together" with the cams slightly "hanging out". We received it with various parts not bolted on/missing such as: the thermostat, cam-chain tensioner, valve cover, and other parts. Oil was additionally leaking on everything the motor was put on as the oil drain bolt was missing. 


OK, we are now 8 days from having to leave for the ECR round with no motor or solid plan. I decided (after talking to Danny) that we would use the motor from Sam & Chris Romeo (Sam's Cycle Salvage). It was also the "best deal" as I agreed to completely rebuild their shock and forks on their 750 in exchange for a head and the "loan of the motor". We have had really good luck with Sam and Chris on previous bike(s) and motors in the past and we were crossing our fingers on this situation. 


We decided to use the Sam's Cycle Salvage motor. I have known Sam & Chris for over a decade now, and built their suspension when he won the CMRA #1 plate. It is safe to say that we, "We know each other". So with that said, they provided the motor for us and somewhat laughingly stated, "we don't want to hear any bitching about the motor!"  


We would have Billy (Wiese) complete the assembly of the motor (which Billy was not crazy about due to the "unknowns" of the engine). I also planned on coming up and be on "stand-by" to finish the engine install and also trouble shoot the electronics/wiring/etc. in search of the original issue why the motor was "going flat". Lastly I was going up to possibly do the work on the motor as Billy had "thrown his back out" during the middle of the week and couldn't work. 


Much to the concern of Danny I was prepared to complete the motor myself if I needed to (he had never actually seen me build any motors, so this "old man" couldn't possibly know how to!). I tried to reassure Danny "not to worry" as I am very well versed in Suzuki motors and even reminded him that one time I actually built a GSXR-1000 motor on a garage floor (due to time and geography constraints) for 200 club racing (of which current CMRA endurance racer Michael Rochester was a member on) several years ago that ran the endurance season without a hitch after a "prominent name" in engine building  couldn't put a motor together that lasted one race for them. Danny's response, "...well we really should let Billy Build it." No respect for his elders I tell you!


With Billy's back wrecked, I had to wait as he felt that he could go to the chiropractor and be ready to work on the motor(s) the Monday before the race. Well, that plan did not "exactly" work and basically I went up Monday before the race to help him. He finished the motor Tuesday morning. I went ahead and recommended a "leak down test" as it is the best indicator "everything is right" and when we were rushing like we were, it only made sense to "double check". Leak down showed problems!


Less than 2 days away from leaving the track and we are now doing the leak down. MAJOR PROBLEM, #4 cylinder has 90% leak down. Billy was tired and hurting, and I was "hell bent" on getting the motor together. I talked  Billy into letting me pull the head and we would use the "spare head" as it appeared to be fairly "new". When I disassembled the original head, I noticed a "small correctable problem" and Billy ended up putting the head back together. With that together, we did a leak down again. We were now losing over 40% in two of the cylinders. We did some "Kentucky engineering" and by 8:00pm that evening, we had a "good motor" despite the fact we didn't know if it would actually run!


I didn't arrive back to our shop until 9:00 that evening, so I put off the motor installation until the next morning as I felt it was better to do the work "rested" as I had a torn muscle in my right arm and I wasn't feeling too great. After getting some drill bits and supplies, I got the motor installed Wednesday at about 1:00pm in the frame and was bolting up the various parts (Exhaust, Radiator, and Throttle bodies). 




Things were going a bit slow as I was checking all of the various connectors, wires, sensors, etc. to see what might had been the problem at TWS. Additionally several parts appeared damaged/broken on the "borrowed motor" including one of the water hoses among other things. At about 3:30, my arm was toast and I asked Danny to stop by and help me put the throttle bodies on as I could not "push down" with my torn muscle. 


Two hours later we realized one of three differences with the 06-07 GSXR-750 vs the 08-09 model was that the throttle bodies were different. I drove BACK over to Billy's shop (5th time so far!) and pick up the boots for the head off our 750. The good news is that we appeared to identify the issue from TWS. The servo motor for secondary butterflies on the throttle bodies was cracked. OK, something good came of this problem and we quickly got the throttle bodies on while repairing the throttle bodies with duct tape and TLC! 


NEXT Issue as we are checking the wiring, we find that we have the ECT sensor not plugged in to the harness and that although there are two connectors (one of which OBVIOUSLY has to plug into the ECT sesnor) that neither of which fit. After being exhausted, from working on this all day we (Danny and I) spent two hours on the ECT issue before we came to the conclusion that it was different and that is why the connector did not fit. I then take my 6th and final trip of the week to Billy's to pick up the ECT sensor off our motor/head. 


At 9:30 that evening, we bolt in the ECT sensor and within 15 minutes we fire up the bike. It starts very quickly and cleanly. Everything looks great EXCEPT there is an obvious exhaust leak. No problem I think, I will take the exhaust loose in the morning, put some RTV around the used exhaust gasket(s), and we will be rolling! 


The plan for the exhaust goes out the window the next morning as it is then realized that the flange for the exhaust pipe is cracked. At this point, I need to get to my tools in my trailer that are buried. Danny and I decide to leave for ECR @ 3:30 and I will finish the installation/repairs in the evening. The good news is that that motor appeared to run flawless.




We arrive at ECR at about 8:00 after dealing with the "NASCAR Traffic" as well as the normal DFW I-35 rush hour mess. We change the oil and filter as we ran the bike for 20 minutes with full petroleum oil at the house to "clean the crap out of the motor". I then use JB Weld on the exhaust pipe to "fix the exhaust leak". In the morning, it appeared that the exhaust leak was fixed! WOW, a solid 3 days to get the motor finished and installed and we have a runner! 




When we looked at the work put in to get to the track, it paled in comparison to the work once we got to the track. YES THAT'S RIGHT, work only got started as the following issues made the weekend one of the busiest we have had in a while:


1. We found out the gear position sensor would not work with the 08-09 wiring harness, Danny uses it in a few situations where 2-3 downshifts or more are used. He had to adjust his riding. .


2. Amid the chaos we did not order the replacement quick shifter module from Dynojet, so Danny was still "manually shifting"


3. The "repair on the exhaust" started to deteriorate, so it had to be "touched up" on Saturday.


4. The brake rotors got contaminants on them from the motor swap, so the rotors glazed and wasted the pads, so I got to change those and sand down the rotors.


5. With the weather/rain/etc as well as our "practice tire rotation challenges". I got to change/swap wheels 15 times respectively


6. The weather/storms were lousy so we spent a good time each day loading up the trailer with everything in the evening and unloading in the morning.


7. I spent Saturday going through the clutch as it was "jacked" and I cleaned all the metals (we did not have a new one to put in). 


8. Danny got "taken out" as one of the riders thought T1 was for bowling at the start of the Open Superbike race. The crash resulted in the master cylinder being wiped out as well as both handle bars. It was an intense 25 minutes repairing the motorcycle. 


9. In the final race of Sunday, Danny pulled out into the lead in the B Superbike race early and on lap three the throttle bodies/secondary butterflies began to malfunction similarly to TWS and Danny "rode it out" for 2nd. 


10. It was a bittersweet weekend for Danny and the team. Danny won his first race on Sunday (750 Superstock) and it was impressive winning by 12.6 seconds (he had a 15 second lead by lap three before he "backed off") and we thought all the hard work had paid off, but the changing track conditions and other challenges just did not let up. Symbolic of the weekend is that on the way back to Austin, the turbo intercooler hose blew off (which sounds like a small bomb/tire blowing out) twice. Equally symbolic was that Danny and I used our resources and got it fixed and then back home (thanks to a handy tech article on in no small part that was accessible through our phone browser). 


Through all the problems and challenges...the team showed that Danny is a really great rider and that there is great teamwork behind the scenes. Although I am the main race day support, we always can count on our sponsors and our vendors to participate as a team too and that is vitally important. We have to extend many thanks to Billy Wiese, Sam & Chris Romeo (Sam's cycle salvage). 


Next race is Hallet, Oklahoma May 18-20 and I believe this will be our turning point in the season! 


Associated Media from the weekend:


  • April 15, 2012 Photos - Provided by Brandon Bones/Studio 819 & Kayla Kelsey/

  • RRW CMRA Press Release

  • Press Release