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George Bryce's Pro Stock Motorcycle School: The Experience of a Lifetime



Written by: Tony Ferland Jr., Previous Drag School Student

The day is finally here. It’s 4 a.m., and I am on my way to the world famous George Bryce and Frank Hawley Pro Stock Motorcycle Drag Racing School. On the flight down to Auto Plus Raceway in Gainesville, FL, I couldn’t help myself from thinking of all the great racers that have attended this school. It’s going to be a serious moment when it’s my time to throw a leg over one of the bikes.  After a three-hour flight and a short ride over to the track as we pulled in I saw Big Red, the Star Racing rig, I said to myself, “This is going to be fun.”

We were met at the gate by Frank Hawley, and he led us into the classroom, where you get to meet everybody that is taking the class too. It’s funny how everyone kind of had the same look on their faces – excited and a little nervous, not sure what to expect. We all come from different backgrounds, some with wheelie bar experience, some race extended bikes and some race stock wheel base. Well, take what you know and throw it out the window, because this is a Pro Stock bike.

Day one in the AM consists of classroom time going over how the class will run and getting to know everybody and their level of experience and where they’re from. We had people from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Cali, and me from Maine. It’s a great bonding experience for everyone. We are all here to do the same thing: learn how to ride this bike. After spending time with George and the crew a few words came to mind: professional, experienced, skilled. And, man, this guy is calm and cool and has a great sense of humor.

After spending some time in the classroom, we headed out to get our first look at the bikes. George went over the bikes, explaining everything from the transmission, clutch, steering, stopping and so on. Your first chance to get on the bike is when Ken Johnson, Star Racing crew chief for more than 25 years, pushes you down the track. With the bike off, you really can see how different this bike is to steer with the 10 inch tire.

After everyone has made a no-power run down the track, it’s time to fire this bad boy up.  You shift the bike into third gear for the burnout, wet the tire, pull forward and they fire the engine. A smile came on my face; this thing has some power. Now is the time I have to take what I learned in the classroom and make it work on the track. Easy, right?!!

Well, I will say my first hit was not so good. This thing leaves hard!!! I am used to a 1.45-1.55 second 60-ft. hand clutch. Now, I have a bike that can 1.08-1.11 60-ft. with a lock up clutch. Yeah, this is different; it’s going to take a few passes to figure this thing out. For my second pass, I tried to use my clutch hand acting like I was riding my SWB bike. Yeah, no good!! George came over to me after that pass and went over what I was doing wrong and gave me some words of encouragement, saying “I know this is different but trust me, do what I say and you will see.” It was then up to me; can I do this? I know I can I kept telling myself. I did not come all this way to fail.

Normally, the students go back into the classroom after each run to review their videos and see how to improve before heading back out to the track for the next pass. For this school, the crew decided to squeeze in the first two runs back-to-back because of the threat of rain that could have kept us off the track later in the afternoon. After everyone made their first two passes, we went back into the classroom to review the video and talk about what we were doing wrong. Everyone said the same thing: it’s not as easy as I thought. I will be the first to admit that, if it was that easy it would not be fun and I was up for the challenge.

After the review, Frank Hawley came in and went over some of the mental aspects of the sport. What an eye-opener! I mean, you have no idea how much information this guy has. I can see why racers hire him to improve their teams. As you go on in life, you run into people that change your life for the better; this is the case with both George and Frank.

I left the class with the first day in the books, not with the results I wanted but with a ton of knowledge and a great positive attitude, and I was hungry to get back at it for day two. George sent us home with our homework for how we could improve for day two. I took what he said back to the hotel and worked on it. I was convinced when I got back to the track for my third run I would feel more comfortable on the bike.

After a good night’s sleep, I was up early for day two since class starts at 8 a.m. sharp. Again, we started in the classroom and reviewed day one with George, and he went over some of the mental parts of racing. I love the way he thinks both on and off the track. Frank came in to finish up his part of the class. It was mind blowing to say the least. Sometimes, classroom time is boring, but this is not one of those times. I could have spent all day just listening to Frank and George. The stories and experience they have from years in the business is crazy. If you ask me what part I liked better – the classroom time or riding the bike – I will tell you both. I learned just as much in the classroom as I did riding the bike.

Now, back on the track for day two and my third pass; it was on. In my mind, I knew what I needed to do. George told me to make a 1000-ft. pass. I lined up, put it on the two-step and threw the clutch, all while trying to throw my body forward with the motion of the motorcycle. The big Suzuki left hard. I shifted the bike and made a nice straight run. I was saying now that felt good. When I got back, George went over my run saying “That was better, just your 1-2 shift was too fast but nice run.”

On the second day, everyone was making better passes. All the riders were having fun laughing and talking about our runs, never knowing what our times were. George only wants you to think about your runs, not your times. He does show you a printout on the throttle and shift points to see where you can improve your runs. Run four was one more 1000-ft. pass, the best one of the day with a 1.11 60-ft., 3.11 330-ft., 4.82 second 1/8 mile at 142.72 mph, 6.35 1000-ft. I chopped the throttle at 1000-ft. and coasted to the stripe running a 7.92 at 132.31 mph. Now, that felt really good.

My fifth pass, I tried to get a little more aggressive, throwing my body forward a little too soon sending the Suzuki into a big tire shake. I short shifted the bike, slowing down my 60-ft. and 330, but I never lifted and ran it out the back door hitting the stripe at a 7.86 at 153.95 mph. Man, if only I have had my timing right on that pass. On the sixth and final pass, the bike’s transmission would not shift into third, but that’s OK because I am coming back.

This was an experience like no other.  From George and his crew to Frank Hawley and all the friends I made, I am truly blessed to have had this experience. I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again. I know I will learn even more the second time around. A big thank you to George Bryce and his crew for all their hard work on putting this together. This is a class act operation from top to bottom. Also, thank you to Frank Hawley and Auto Plus Raceway in Gainesville, FL. Congratulations to all the other students that were with me in this 2013 November class. (Great times at the Gators den.)



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