In 2004, G-Force hit the 450cc AFM classes with a gaggle of Red White and Blue VFR and RVFs. Since that time, our RWB colors have been associated with the dominant motorcycles in the class. Although the bikes have changed ownership over the years, they have remained loyal to the G-Force Team and the AFM 450cc class. Following is a description of the team that has made it all possible. One thing you may pick up is the reason for our old motto at G-Force: "Most of our friends are customers, but ALL of our customers are friends".
Mike Norman started wrenching on bikes in his pre-teens and started roadracing when he was about 18. He won his first two Novice races and on his first practice session as an "Expert", an unfortunate high-side out of turn-2 at Willow Springs left him with a serious back injury and some choices. Mike hung up his leathers for over 15 years and picked up the wrenches to pursue his career as an engine builder.
However, after much success with building engines for the infamous AFM 250 Production class, Mike chose to start racing again on a Honda VTR-250 in 2001. Mike raced the VTR250 from 2001 to 2003, attributing much of his comfort and cornering ability to the little Honda. Here, Mike (586) is seen leading his good friend David Crone (731) in one of the typical and fun dices the two friends always shared. (Read more about David below).
After several years of having a blast with the VTR, and becoming heavily involved with the VFR400s, Mike decided it was time to start racing one. He spent over a year building his bike from reconditioned left-overs of all the other riders in the group, but in the end, Mike had an extremely well prepared hybrid of VFR and RVF. Mike's bike was based on a VFR chassis with Penske Rear Shock, and 17" RVF rear wheel. Up front, he had custom triple clamps made to fit his RVF front forks and brakes with a 3-spoke Dymag front wheel from a CBR600F-3. The engine was an RVF with the RVF HRC loom and CDI, with open RVF carbs (for the first part of life anyway).
Unfortunately, Mike Norman has been struggling with serious neck, arm and back pain. It was discovered that he had a ruptured disc in his neck. After a couple of frustrating years struggling with all the alternatives to surgery--with no luck--he opted to have the pestering disc removed and C5/6 vertebrae fused. During the surgery (August 21st,2007) the Dr. found that C5 vertebrae was actually broken, so Mike had been playing a nasty game with Lady-Luck, just barely coming out ahead. Mike hopes to ride again, maybe in the 2012 racing season. Time will tell.
Dave has been racing since 1995, where he started with the Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association (OMRRA) and Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association (WMRRA). Dave started his racing career on an FZR400, then to Suzuki SV650s and eventually a Yamaha R-6. He eventually found himself driving from Oregon to California to compete in the highly competitive AFM. In 2002, Dave raced a Yamaha TZ250 in the AMA 250GP class as well.
Dave has held many varied professional positions, including a High School English Teacher in the UK and a Chief Operations Officer (COO) for an Athletic Talent Agency. What Dave is most known for is his Suspension Tuning skills that he learned and mastered through his years of racing. Dave has been helping other riders sort their suspension since 1996 , co-founded GP Suspension in Oregon and then founded Catalyst Reaction Suspension Tuning in Northern California in 2005. He has been a great resource to the G-Force Team for suspension even before his experience with the NCs.
Dave first came to G-Force in the early 2000s after purchasing a G-Force built FZR400 engine. So, when Dave was considering buying the 428 from Bob, he already knew of G-Force's reputation with the 400cc engines. After purchasing the bike, Mike Norman rebuilt the engine with the Cosworth pistons and some other goodies. There is still some final dial-in to be done. But, that didn't stop Dave from riding his "arse" off hard enough to win the AFM 450 Superbike Championship in 2011, bringing the title back to the G-Force camp. Congratulations Dave, and thanks for putting my old bike on the top of the box.
He began racing a 1996 GSX-R750 with the AFM. In about 1999, he brought his GSX-R to Mike Norman at G-Force for some work to the engine. Mike was a customer at the time, but soon after became an active business partner in G-Force. Among his duties at G-Force, Mike became the dyno specialist tuning hundreds of bikes on the dyno for racing and street operation.
In 2001, Mike started racing his Honda RC-51 SP-1 in the AFM Open Twins class. It was actually Mike that purchased the first Red and Black VFR400 from another customer and started the G-Force craze for these bikes. As a behind-the-scenes part of the VFR/RVF development for many years, Mike has finally jumped in with both feet and is going to develop the electronically fuel injected RVF400 that you will be reading about among these pages (NC45V Gen 5.2 EFI).
Mike Lohmeyer is an Electronics Engineer with a primary focus on PCB board design. Lohmeyer began racing a Kawasaki EX-250 with the AFM in 1998. Again, as many of my friends began, Lohmeyer started out as a customer of G-Force for a rebuild of his Kawasaki EX-250. This was soon followed by a rebuild on his FZR400 that he was racing in the AFM's 450 Superbike class.
Through this business relationship Lohmeyer and Norman quickly became friends. One evening while discussing many of the crazy ideas that they discussed, the idea to import the Honda VFR400s for racing in the 450 class began. (Speaking of "crazy", shown here, Lohmeyer is always one to help a fellow rider out on - or off - the bike.) Within a few weeks the order for 5 bike was placed with TYGA in Thailand and the NC-30s would soon be coming to the USA,
Lohmeyer purchased several of the VFRs over the years, including a very immaculate Red and Black street bike seen here. Unfortunately, he has sold this bike to fund the rest of the NC450V project. Lohmeyer was one of the first to receive a 450 motor and, working directly with Mike Norman, has helped achieve the great results we have see so far. Unfortunately, most of the broken parts you see also belong to Lohmeyer too. So, in reality, we all owe big thanks Mike Lohmeyer for his dedication - and investment - in this project. For without it, we would have never gotten where we are today with it. Mike has since hung up his leathers to focus his efforts oin the new CNC Machining Projects he has been working on. We are hoping to see him rebuild his bike with all the latest advancements we have discovered, and maybe even return to the track to chase another Championship. Until then, he continues to teach the New Racer's School; Keigwin's at the Track.
My story about David is actually a funny one. In 1996, I worked for a metallurgical company in Sacramento. Because of my obvious passion for motorcycles, all of the employees there kept talking about a former engineer that worked there and his love for motorcycles as well. They all talked about the "Red Italian Bike" (Ducati Paso) that he rode. Everybody swore David and I would have been the best of friends if we were to meet. One employee even got us to connect on the phone once. But, nothing ever came of it.
In 2000, I was at a race wandering around the backside of the track. Nobody ever goes back there during a club race, but I was driving around with my daughter when we saw a guy with his dog. She wanted to pet the dog, so we went over and asked the guy if it was alright. As the conversation grew, I introduced myself and handed this guy my card. He looked at the card and laughed, "you're Mike Norman? I'm David Crone. We've talked on the phone before".
David and I discussed how we both wanted to start racing the 250 Production class. We connected well and started building our bikes, and a great friendship together. Off the track, we worked well in building the bikes. On track, our riding skills were quite similar to where we pushed each other every race. It seemed that, no matter where in the pack of 50-some-odd riders, we always finished right next to one another. Some days I beat him. Other days he beat me. But, we always moved up the pack together. It had to be some of the best racing I can remember.
Another thing David and I always seemed to do together was race the same kind of bike. From 2001 to 2003, we both raced a VTR-250. In 2004 we both raced VFR400s. And, for 2006, we both had Ducati 749S models to race, but I had to retire from racing and watch David race that bike, and continue his fight in the 250 Production class. David went on to win the 250 Production Championship in 2006. My favorite accomplishment with David was coming in 2nd-in-class in our first-ever 4-hour endurance race, and winning the next 2 years in a row on his VFR400.
Mark Elrod & Chris Gallo (not pictured)
Mark Elrod is a business entrepreneur and computer coder. He and his friend, Chris Gallo, a website manager for a large antique firearms auction house, were out looking for a good racebike to start racing with. They both had done trackdays and had become stricken with the "fever" of riding on the track. Mark found Mike Lohmeyer and was originally going to purchase his old EX-250. However, they started talking about the 450 project and Mark was immediately hooked.
In 2004 we sourced a couple of RVF400s for Mark and Chris. As with most of the bikes we build, the were stripped down to the bare frame and rebuilt completely back up. In this case, Mark and Chris did all the work with Mike Norman supervising, learning all of the intricate details of the RVF before having ever ridden them. This proved to be a priceless knowledge-base for the two teammates.
In 2005, Mark decided to go with a 450 motor, which you can read about in NC450V Gen 3 . Mark also decided to run 450cc "Production" so we set out to build a bike for that class as well. Finally...Mark painted his Production bike to match the G-Force colors after having the misfit bikes for so long :-) Over the seasons of mentoring with Lohmeyer, Elrod eventually started winning races, then the 450cc Production CLass Championship, and eventually taking Lohmeyer's place as the 450cc Superbike Class Champion. Mark's 450cc Superbike is now the center of our development, and the bike you see in the "Cycle World" limelight. Mark is also an instructor with the Keigwins at the Track team.
Chris has stayed with the stock motor for most of the time, but has recently decided to go with a ported & milled stock-based motor. Poor health over the last few years has kept Chris from riding, but he seems to have turned things around, so we hope to see him back on the track soon with his new 400cc G-Force motor (as soon as I can port heads again). [Pictures of Chris coming soon]
Paul is a Business Owner & Computer Programmer (like almost everyone in the Bay Area). He also currently works for Mark Elrod, through the friendship made at G-Force, and used to work for Mike Norman in the Customer Service Department of Ducati North America (again, through the friendship made at G-Force).
Paul started out as a customer at G-Force with his Ducati 748. Then, he progressed with his GSX-R street bike. I am not sure how it started, but I think Paul talked with Lohmeyer, and then wanted in on the bikes we were originally bringing from Thailand. As the project progressed, it was kind of funny to watch as Lohmeyer got something for his bike, Paul had to have it. Paul was one of the two original 450 engine customers who basically got everything that Lohmeyer got. During the few seasons that Paul raced the bike, he placed on the podium and finished top-three in class. Paul and Lohmeyer also shared some pretty close racing, as seen in the picture here.
Chris McGrail is another Computer Programmer/Coder and was yet another customer-turned-friend. Chris also started with a Honda VTR-250 that we worked very closely on developing for the AFM 250 Production Class. It was much of that development work that directly translated to the development work you read about here on the NCs. The motors are, as I have said before, Cousins. Our development with that motor went on for years and Chris became the first guy to podium with the Honda in many years. The development also paved the way to David Crone's 2006 250 Production Championship.
Chris also raced a Yamaha FZR400 in the 450 class, dubbing it the "evil Bike" as it tried to spit him off every chance it could. After riding the 4hr Endurance race on Lohmeyer's VFR one year. Chris was hooked and picked up an RVF. He liked the bike, but decided later to get a 2005 GSX-R1000 and try the big bikes. He seems to have taken to them and he sold the RVF to Mike Sampognaro.
Kathy is also a Software Engineer here in the Silicon Valley. She began riding in approximately 1998 on a Honda VTR-250. She then moved up to an FZR400 with which she became a customer at G-Force. Kathy is the newest member of the G-Force VFR/RVF team, but her bike isn't. The bike was actually one of the first bikes we imported and sold to Paul Yoshimune. And, to keep with the "keep it in the family tradition", Kathy also now works for Mark Elrod's software company.
After his several year stint with the bike, and running the 2nd ever NC450V motor, Paul sold the bike to Mike Lohmeyer. Mike yanked the motor for himself and then sold the bike - with a stock motor - to Kathy about mid-year 2006 in which Kathy immediately started racing it. "I LOVE the VFR"! She exclaimed, and her results have shown it. She has steadily improved her riding, even earning a podium finish at the last AFM round in 450 Production.
Ian Smith is the newest addition to the G-Force Team. He is a Mechanical Engineer in the San Jose area, and started racing in 2011. As a Novice in his Inaugural year, Ian finished 3rd overall in the AFM 450 Superbike class. That was with a bike built from spare parts and a stock engine. This Winter, he is working closely with Mike Norman to develop his engine for the maximum performance. Also, Ian has been busy designing some new chassis parts and working closely with the team to better the bikes all around. He is a great addition to the Team, bringing much enthusiasm and motivation to the shop. We are all looking forward to the 2012 race season.