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BMW Motorcycle Owners of America (www.bmwmoa.org)Meet the F800 RacerBy Gerry Schulte #18312 | June 11 2009
We have a new and determined racer in our midst this spring, riding a bike he created. Steve Kennedy, from Chesapeake, Virginia, is campaigning a race-prepared F800 in several CCS regional and ASRA national classes, only the second F800 to ever race in this country, and the only one on the track this year. As of this writing, he had just come back from a weekend event at Carolina Motor Sports Park, with two wins, three second place finishes and one fourth, not bad for the first time out with an untested bike. His lap times continued to shorten all weekend as he made adjustments and got a feel for his new ride, and the season is looking bright.
Steve, now 27, has been actively racing for four years. He learned valuable mechanical skills working in the family construction business with his father, Kurt. Father and son are obviously close, as Kurt usually rides along to the track, serving as pit crew, promoter, and companion. With no sponsorships, money has always been tight, and Steve stretches his budget by doing all the building and tuning himself, and actually prefers it that way. Every one of his bikes, all Hondas until now, began as damaged machines bought for a song at auction, and rebuilt to his specifications. This is not such a bad idea when you consider how often race bikes have to be repaired from mishaps on the track.
His new creation is no different, and was the best of three F800's he found on one of his frequent Web sites, salvagedirect.com. Originally, he was hoping for some factory or dealer help on a new machine, but the economy has put a severe damper on sponsorships this year. Not to be deterred, he went back to his old tricks, and with a lot sweat and ingenuity, we now have another good reason to head for the tracks this year. He is still hoping to find some financial backing to help defray the cost of travel expenses, track fees, parts, etc., in general helping to maintain his shoestring race program.
Being somewhat unique, the bike presented several challenges, especially with race equipment. They found the fairing in Poland, where there is a little-known road racing series for the F800. Being belt-driven, there is only one size of sprocket currently being made, so he can't make the usual sprocket changes to match torque and speed with the varying conditions at different tracks. He feels that if he switched to a chain drive, he would lose some of the authenticity of the BMW equipment. Instead, he is trying to adjust his riding style around the one sprocket he has.
Steve began racing in 2004, riding in a few events, including Daytona. To this day, he doesn't have a license to ride on the street, so his first experience riding at speed, was at a track school. He raced off and on for the next two years, and in 2007, he had a great season, winning ten different classes, including National Ultra-lightweight Champion. He was put out of commission last year with an injured wrist, but is now back healthy and ready to ride.
He races on the same circuit as Nate Kern, but in different classes, and they have become good friends. They met one day at Barber, when Nate came up and gave him some pointers, as he often does with everyone. In fact, it was Nate who coaxed him into racing a BMW, and even suggested trying out the new F800. When you go to the track, you are likely to see them together quite often, as they usually set up near each other.
After one of the races in South Carolina, one of Steve's competitors, who were all curious about the new Beemer, groaned "Oh, no!" when he found out Steve would be on the regular circuit, out to expand on Nate's, and BMW's, domination to include even more classes.
Steve will be riding in the CCS / ASRA Mid-Atlantic Circuit this year, alternating several times between Virginia International Raceway, Summit Point, West Virginia and Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, as well as Daytona in the fall. A complete listing of events can be found either on his Web site, http://www.kennedyroadracing.com, or http://www.ccsracing.us.
With the huge following that has been generated from BMWs getting back into racing, these weekends have turned into mini-rallies of sorts. Come on out, kick tires with Steve and Kurt, and join the fun!