Carmel Valley’s Nick and Todd Grice work and play together on the race track.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Nick and Todd Grice wanted to ride motorcycles so badly that as kids they would make engine noises while cruising around on bicycles.
“We just always have been fascinated by them,” Todd says.
The brothers, Carmel Valley natives, grew up riding BMX. Nick, 21, won seven straight National Bicycle League titles in the California Expert Class, while Todd, 26, won the NBL national cruiser championship in 2002.
While the pair wanted to go faster, engines revving, their parents argued they crashed too much in BMX and didn’t want them to exaggerate their streak of injuries.
“We always wanted to ride motocross, but our parents didn’t let us,” says Nick. “So when we were able to make our own money and decisions, we got a bike.”
Todd started first, joining the club racing scene. He reached the podium in seven of eight race starts in the American Federation of Motorcycles (AFM) at three tracks in Northern California. Nick was his mechanic. Their roles switched in February 2010 when Nick hopped aboard a rented motorcycle during a track day at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. The ride was a Christmas present from Todd.
“Todd told me he had lost his mechanic and gained a competitor,” Nick says. “At first I was working on not crashing, but by the fourth or fifth lap, I was having a lot of fun.”
While Todd hurt himself during a BMX accident in December of 2011, Nick has remained in the rider’s seat. This season they’ve traveled by Ford E-350 to as many AMA races as they can drive to. This weekend Nick aims to qualify for his first American Motorcycle Association race just miles from their childhood home, in the Supersport race. (Supersport is the middleweight class of road bikes in the United States.)
A few weeks ago, during a track day, Nick enjoyed his first ever ride at Laguna Seca - which meant Todd’s previous experience came in handy; older bro knows how the turns stress the bike. And his go-for-it instincts dovetail nicely with Nick’s more calculated riding mentality.
“I’d rather find the limit quickly,” Todd says.
“We’re exactly opposite in riding,” Nick adds. “Todd likes to jump in head first and I like to watch and wait.”
On track day, Todd clocked Nick’s lap times with a stopwatch from the pit wall.
“Watching bikes on this track is like watching someone play the accordion,” says Todd. “It is a fast section followed by a slow section. The riders group together and then spread out.”
Nick exits the final corner - a flat, 90-degree turn - and speeds down the home straightaway. Todd says this is one of the hardest sections to set the bike up for. The problem is setting the suspension soft enough to control the bike in the flat corners, but not slow your speed in the faster corners.
“You want to have a good balanced and stable ride for the sections where you can accelerate,” says Todd. “Turns 3 and 11 are the ones you really try to get out of those corners efficiently, because they are the flattest and you have to have a very particular setup to get a drive out of the corner exit.”
By the end of the day, Nick is laying down a consistent time in the one minute, 36 second range. Nick is on par for his bike - a Yamaha R6 - in his class. (The circuit record for MotoGP is 1:20, set by Australian and two-time World Champion Casey Stoner in 2008.)
On Saturday, Nick and Todd will see if their teamwork has paid off. In two qualifying sessions in the morning, Nick has to be roughly within 10 seconds of the lead rider to make it to the starting grid for that afternoon’s race.
THE AMA SUPERSPORT race takes off at 3:40pm on Saturday, July 28. Saturday: $45 presale, $60 at gate; Saturday-Sunday: $75, $90 gate. $50/three-day paddock pass. 800-327-7322, www.mazdaraceway.com