Rapp Off to Slow Start at U.S. Grand Prix

Henny Ray Abrams | July 27, 2012

Attack Performance’s Steve Rapp has to find 2.7 seconds pretty quickly if he’s going to make the field for Sunday’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.

Rapp, seen here aboard his Attack Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R, finished the first free practice for the RBIGP 2.7 seconds off the MotoGP qualifying cut-off mark after lapping Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1:29.814. The cut-off time of 107% of the fastest rider is 1:27.123, a mark that Ivan Silva (Avintia Blusens BQR) just snuck under on his first visit to the track in the hills east of Monterey, California with a time of 1:27.102.

The Attack Performance team, led by owner Richard Stanboli, worked feverishly to get the bespoke-framed, Kawasaki-powered CRT machine to the track on time. But the project proved so time-consuming, and was being done concurrently with the Attack AMA Superbike program, that testing was impossible. Rapp flew his own plane to Buttonwillow Raceway for a test, only to find the bike hadn’t made it.

Now he’s got two sessions before qualifying to close the gap, which is a moving target since the fastest time will get faster over the next two practice sessions and qualifying.

“Really, I mean I’m impressed that the bike’s here,” Rapp said after his first stint on the CRT bike. ” Really, it’s a great accomplishment for Richard [Stanboli] to build his own first bike and be able to get it here in that short of a time. We were way behind schedule, no testing.”

Rapp said he went to Buttonwillow on Thursday to “test for a couple of hours before we came here to just do basic stuff like we’re doing right now, which I should’ve done before, like just getting comfortable on the bike. So we need to do a lot of little adjustments like that.

“But, you know, the bike, it’s great. We need five days of testing, which we don’t have, so I’m going to have to do it here and it’s a great accomplishment. I just don’t want to get in the way right now, because I’m doing the stuff that they’ve done, six, seven months ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t really want to do it here, but I’m happy to be here and I’m happy the bike runs.

“It feels good. The motor sounds awesome, looks great. Tires felt pretty good; nothing out of the ordinary yet. Carbon brakes feel a little weird. Not what I thought they’d feel like, so maybe I’m not using them quite right yet. Right now my main focus for the next session is ergonomics for the rider, getting me comfortable on the bike and then I can start making the bike better.”

With a lack of spares, in every department, there’s a limit to how hard he can push.

“Literally, I’m just riding it at 70 percent so I don’t crash it, because I only got one of everything,” he said. One frame, one motor, one set of leathers. “So I have to take all of that into account when I’m doing this. So I want to make sure I get just as many laps as we can and then go from there.”

Rapp said until he sorts out the ergonomics, he won’t start fiddling with the electronics. There was a problem with the launch control that cut his revs to 10,000. After two laps of lost revs he came in and his session was over.

“We’re ironing out the little things that we should be doing ahead of time,” Rapp said, “but he’s put so much effort into getting here I feel I need to go out and do the best I can.”

The gearing is also off and that will be changed in the second qualifying session. And after that Rapp will jump on the Attack Performance ZX-10R AMA Superbike for first practice as part of his double duty.

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.