Angelle Sampey was fresh off a near-perfect test session with her brand new Star Racing Buell NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle entering the 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. The three-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle World Champion posted her career-best ET on the new bike in only the second pass of testing. As they arrived at Gainesville Raceway, the Star Racing team showed plenty of confidence in the new program. But mechanical difficulties for Angelle Sampey meant the team had plenty of hard work on their hands for the duration of the weekend. She made the field, but would not have the season opening event she had hoped for, exiting early in the first round of eliminations.
Mechanical difficulties for Angelle Sampey plague qualifying
The very first session, Angelle would launch hard, but something went amiss on the bike, and by half track she was coasting to an 8.629 at 98.03 mph effort. Star Racing team owner, George Bryce, took it back to the pits and discovered that the engine had expired in 4th gear. That left them swapping engines between rounds.
Round two, Angelle was able to get it down the track, and jumped up the ladder with a 6.854 second E.T. at 192.44 mph. It was good enough to get her the provisional No. 4 position, but the back-up engine also had issues at the lights.
Angelle made it to high gear before we tossed a pushrod out,” said Bryce after the run. “Still went 6.85, we where down 5 MPH, as she coasted through.”
This meant engine number three for Angelle, and the Star Racing team was back to work in the pits, preparing for the third round of qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Sampey, who had maintained the provisional No. 4 qualifying position entering the third round, would complete her burnout and begin to stage when the starter spotted fluid coming from the bike – an oil leak, and shut her down.
After taking care of the oil leak, Angelle and her Star team would have one last qualifying attempt to try and gain some data on the track and the swap to back up engine #3. Sitting at the back of staging awaiting her final qualifying pass, a few in front of her would bump her down the ladder a few spots. She would take the line in the No. 7 position, and would get down the track with a 6.847 at 195.70 mph pass, enough to push her up to the No. 5 final qualifying position. The pass was the third-quickest run of the round, giving her 1 additional bonus qualifying point.
Seeing Red in Eliminations
With a secure spot in the top half of the eliminations ladder, Sampey would face No. 12 Jim Underdahl in the opening round on Sunday. She had lane choice, and entered the round calm and confident on the bike. But unfortunately, the dreaded red light came on for Angelle by just -0.002 thousandths of a second, handing the win to Underdahl. She would post a 6.956-second pass at 197.19 mph.
The bike bogged at the launch,” said Sampey. “I have to tell you, I don’t know what else I could’ve done differently. I did everything like I usually do and I can’t believe it went red. After I launched, it bogged so bad it almost died. We’re thinking that contributed to why it went red.”
An early exit was a big disappointment to Angelle and the PSE/Star Racing team, but Sampey knows the team made a lot of progress, although they did not experience the successes they were hoping for.
George Bryce confirmed that the red light was due more to mechanical difficulties for Angelle Sampey and not driver error.
“We got beat and outrun,” said Bryce of the first round loss. “I missed the clutch tune up, the clutch did not slip at all. A Pro Stock motorcycle must have clutch slip at the launch. When Angelle popped the clutch the bike just reacted too quick AND the engine bogged 2800 RPM. I try to get it to 600 to 700 rpm bog. Of course all of that “helped” her go -.002 red light. She was very calm and confident and the starting line, 1st round but, when the engine almost choked off, it took so long to recover. The time for the quarter mile took too long, 6.95 instead of the time it should have run. Good news is she still ran over 197 MPH on that bogging run.”
Sampey didn’t let it keep her down long though. She knows that they are working out some early issues and is ready to get to the next event to pick back up and show the field what they are truly capable of doing in the class.
“I feel I was lucky to be No. 5 with all the trouble we had with the engines in qualifying. It’s the first race of the season and I’m riding a brand new motorcycle. It’s the first race back with two bikes and we’re trying to learn. It was a productive weekend even though it wasn’t a successful weekend by our standards.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors watch out, Angelle and the Star Racing team is coming for them. The next race for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class will be the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina April 22-24, 2016.