Mike Norman writes:
"In 1987, I built my CBR600F-1 into a race bike and started racing at Willow Springs Raceway. Unfortunately, I high-sided myself halfway down the track and ended up with a pretty serious back injury. I took another look at what I wanted to do and becoming a Race Engine Tuner seemed to be what struck the biggest chord.
One day, while visiting some friends in Sacramento,CA I stopped into the local motorcycle shop to check it out. I started talking with the manager of the shop who said he thought I would make a great engine tuner, and would race my bike and show me the ropes. In the end of 1988 I moved from San Diego, CA to Sacramento, CA becoming deeply involved in motorcycle racing. I was close to Sears Point (now called Infineon Raceway) and the home of the largest motorcycle roadracing club in America - the AFM. I was also a "Sponsor" of a popular racer with my motorcycle and my talents as a wrench.
G-Force Racing was born in 1989 from the garage of my duplex in North Highlands, CA (in Sacramento) with the assistance of my new friend Brian Ratliff. From this garage, we converted the 61hp CBR600F-1 into a fire-breathing 90hp beast that opened the eyes and ears of many veteran racers in the 600 classes. Over the next few years, I "sponsored" several racers with my motorcycle putting the bike on the podium on a regular basis.
The shop stayed a garage shop, moving up and down California, until 1994 where I partnered up with Mike Canfield of Chandelle Motorsports in Carmichael, CA, to form a powerful tuning team effort for many more years. Mike and I killed many a brain-cell together on the dyno chasing that proverbial horsepower. Of worthy mention, Mike Canifield went on to be a Crew Chief for John Ulrich's M4/EMGO/Valvoline Suzuki race team, where he still works, in addition to running the Roseville Cycle Performance Center.
In 1998, my daughter was born and I needed a "real" job. So, I closed up shop and went back to the engineering industry only to be quickly bored and wanting to get back into the motorcycle industry. I interviewed with may race team people like: Kevin Erion at Erion Racing, Ray Plumb at American Honda (Called Commonwealth Racing back then), Yoshimura, Chuck Graves and twice with Muzzy's (that's a story itself). But, nothing seemed to open up until I got a call from Dan Kyle. Dan had just left Erion Racing to start his own shop, so I moved to Monterey, CA to be his engine builder. Dan, former two-time "AMA Engine Builder of the Year", showed me a few tricks, but I quickly missed G-Force, and my customers missed me.
In 1999, a former customer of mine wanted to open up a shop and asked if I wanted to partner up with him. G-Force Performance Center opened in San Jose, CA during the big economy surge know as the "dot.com". Business grew faster than we could keep up with, again earning a reputation for fast & reliable race engines as well as honest, detail-oriented and quality service to street bikes of all types.
Within a year, we grew out of our 1,000sq ft shop and moved to a shop 65% larger and located on El Camino Real in Santa Clara, CA. This new shop required major construction in which we built an enclosed dyno room, office and dedicated engine building "clean" room. This was my "cave" in which I would hide from the public to try and get some serious work done.
Unfortunately, in 2003, the economy crash (aka:"dot.bomb") caught up to us and - in combination with some of the troubles we encountered developing the NC motors - the financial strain was enough to close G-Force once again. The shop is no longer a retail business, however we have moved to an even nicer location with more space and continue the development of the NCs as a hobby. There is no sign-age and we are not on any main streets to keep our R&D less obvious to those curious as they are passing by.
As luck would have it, Ducati North America moved its Headquarters for their US operations from New Jersey to California, about 7 miles from where G-Force was last in operation. I happened to be in the right place at the right time, talking to the right person and
landed a job in their Customer Service Department. Since then I have progressed to be the Customer Service Manager, a District Service Manager, and then a Technical Representative working with customers and dealers to resolve concerns with the current line of Ducatis. It's quite the candy store for a motorcycle enthusiast such as myself.
In February of 2009 I accepted a job with Kawasaki Motors Corp. as the Quality Engineer for all Motorcycle and Mule products in the United States. I moved to Southern California in order to take the job, but I continue to travel to G-Force in Northern California at least once a month to work on the development of the NC450V with the team. As the Quality Engineer for Kawasaki, I research all concerns with the products, performing failure analysis to determine the root cause of whatever the problem may be. The goal being to improve the products to be the best possible product for the end user. I get to visit the factory in Akashi, Japan every 6 months and meet with all the Engineers over there to perfect the product. It's a great job, the people at Kawasaki are amazing to work with and the products are some of the best in the market. Don't be surprised of the next project I do revolves around a Kawasaki".
In a surprise move in September 2011, Mike accepted a job at G-Force Team member, Mark Elrod's Software company, Vindicia, Inc. Mike is a Project Manager, in charge of different projects for the Engineering team. He is working directly for Mark, and along side other G-Force Team Folks Paul Yoshimune and Kathy Kuwaye. So, although an odd jump in careers and skills, Mike is at home with his "Family". The move has brought Mike back to Northern California, now living only 7 miles from the G-Force shop, instead of 400 miles away when he was at Kawasaki. Sadly, as is the case with many volatile start-up software companies, the position only lasted a year before Vindicia had to make some tough decisions. A Reduction In Force ("RIF") had never been in the business plan, however, it had become necessary in order to prepare for another round of funding. Mike survived that RIF, but in a surprise move, the company had a 2nd RIF within weeks of the 1st. Mike was not able to "survive" that RIF, and was laid off in October of 2012.
Since 1993, when Honda opened their Race Engine Development division in Santa Clarita called Honda Performance Development, Mike had been driven to work for them. Year after year, Mike had submitted resumes with no response. In 2006, Mike had met someone that knew people that worked in HPD. So, he submitted his resume through them. At last, contact! Mike interviewed with, and was offered a position with HPD. Unfortunately, with some other family issues going on, Mike was unable to accept the offer for position. It was heartbreaking to say the least. However, in the summer of 2013, Mike finally got the break he was looking for. Mike was, once again, contacted by HPD, interviewed with, and was offered a position as the Manager of the Quality Assurance Department. So, in October of 2013, Mike and family moved back to Southern CA to start working at his dream company - Honda Performance Development.
After only a year and a half of hard work and dedication, Mike was able to prove his knowledge of racing engines to the Sr. Management of HPD, and was promoted to Engineer-II of the Engine Test Department. In this position, Mike was responsible for one of the IndyCar engine test cells, running the A&D Dynamometer, alongside Engine Development Engineers, where the engines were tested and developed to deliver the power and reliability necessary to win the 100th running of the Indy 500 in March of 2016. This was definitely a pinnacle career achievement in Mike's career.
Sadly, the end of the line for Mike at HPD came when his spinal injuries required enough surgery to prevent Mike from being able to continue at his position in the Dyno. Those injuries have still not completely healed, and Mike has not been able to return to work yet. Honda could no longer hold a position for Mike, so he is no longer at HPD. What's next for Mike is unknown at this time. However, it is clear it will be something of an adventure, just like all of his previous adventures.
SOME FACTS: Since inception in 1989, G-Force has quickly become the standard to aspire to for race engine building in Northern California. Since 1994, over 30 Class Championships, Top-Novice Awards and Lap Records have been attributed to the reliable, high- horsepower engines built by G-Force.
We bring over twenty-three years of experience to the racing industry. Committed to the constant improvement of the modern race engine, always staying open to new ideas and willing to test them in the name of horsepower. Mike Norman, and the team, have a keen eye for precision and a serious demand for uncompromising quality.
G-Force Engine Development is dedicated to delivering the highest possible performance available. We take pride in our work, and ensure that the racer receives the finest quality of service that we can possibly deliver. We are not satisfied until we win races, set lap records and come home with the championship.