Unfortunately the racing landscape has changed quite a bit since the economy dove off a cliff. Money is hard to find, and race teams are folding under the stress of keeping the lights on. It’s a sad day in Mudville every time a race operation goes belly up. Just this year Jeff Ward Racing, Chaparral Honda, Velocity Yamaha and JDR KTM have called it quits, and more teams are on the verge of going under.
The only way to survive is to adapt to the new financial climate. Many race teams are discovering that they must offer more value, along with results, to persuade sponsors to open their checkbooks. Attracting support in a sport rattled by economic distress requires creative marketing and a comprehensive package that guarantees exposure.
Allan Brown, owner of the N-Fab/TiLube Yamaha race team, has proven that he can adapt to a weak economy. He has survived in the industry a long time, working in public relations and as a mechanic, team manager and owner. The Canadian has earned the respect and admiration of the motocross community by taking riders such as Tim Ferry, Larry Ward, Ryan Sipes, Kyle Lewis, Nick Wey, Kyle Cunningham and Jessica Patterson under his wing and offering them rides when things were tough. This year, Allan Brown employs Chris Blose, Phil Nicoletti, Gareth Swanepoel, Jessica Patterson and Bobby Kiniry. It should be noted that Kiniry was a midseason addition after his former team, Velocity Yamaha, closed their doors.
The MXA wrecking crew likes Allan Brown. He’s nice, friendly yet frank, and very hospitable. We respect him for those attributes and for his commitment to continue racing despite hardships. We wanted to show our appreciation and help Allan (while also helping ourselves), so we decided to test Phil Nicoletti’s N-Fab/TiLube Yamaha YZ450F. This is the bike that Nicoletti will be racing at the 2013 Motocross des Nations for Team Puerto Rico.
Phil Nicoletti hails from the great state of New York. Joining the Pro ranks in 2008, Phil spent much of his career as a privateer. Unfortunately, the talented rider turned Pro at an inopportune time. Had he made his debut a few years earlier, when teams were flush with cash, he would have found his way onto a high-profile race team. How can we be so sure? Nicoletti proved himself last year when he finished in the top five in several 250 East Supercross races and then moved up to the 450 class halfway through the Nationals and landed inside the top 10.
When asked why Nicoletti was added to the N-Fab/TiLube Yamaha roster, Allan Brown had this to say: “Phil has always been really fast. He just turned 24, and he has experience. I thought he was ready to step up to the 450 full-time this year. As a team owner, I’m always looking for a mature rider. We have a smaller team, so we don’t have the staff to take care of less-experienced riders. We want a consistent rider who has potential for growth and is marketable. The rider needs to understand that business also needs to be taken care of off the motorcycle.”
The two parties are a good fit. Nicoletti found his footing in Supercross, ending the series strong and in 18th place in the 450 point standings. Since he is better known for his outdoor riding, however, the MXA wrecking crew chose to test his National bike. Read on to find out what we learned.
Allan Brown is in charge of Nicoletti’s powerplant. He worked with Crower to regrind the cams and installed a 13.5:1, high-compression Wiseco piston. Crank Works weighted and balanced the cranks for more rpm. The team uses TiFuel T4-U fuel, and many of the parts in Phil’s engine are available to the consumer.
There are no factory Yamaha parts on the N-Fab/TiLube bike, but Nicoletti and his teammates do use works Kayaba suspension. Phil used the KYB Pneumatic Spring Fork in Supercross, and the team intends to run PSF air technology outdoors. Kayaba and Enzo handle valving changes and rebuilding the suspension.
The team relies on Akrapovic exhausts to boost power. Not surprisingly, Nicoletti’s YZ450F boasts a full-blown titanium system. Race teams are always in search of increased performance and reduced weight. The Akrapovic exhaust, which has been a favorite of the MXA wrecking crew, does both. A large resonance chamber is located very close to the exhaust port on the head pipe. This system passes the FIM two-meter-max sound test with flying colors.
Phil Nicoletti’s suspension settings are fairly similar to his teammates’. An eagle-eyed reader will notice the words “Blose Test” written on top of the shock. Phil likes the combination of a stiff fork and a soft shock?a common setup among fast Pros. Nicoletti is most picky about ride height and his subframe. The team offers two different-length, cut subframes?4mm or 8mm?to give their riders a bit more clearance.
It takes finesse and commitment to handle Phil Nicoletti’s N-Fab/TiLube YZ450F. MXA test riders tended to oversteer into corners, which made sense given Nicoletti’s geometry choices. The bike handled much differently from a stock YZ450F. Believe it or not, the ignition might be the most important area of Nicoletti’s bike. Why? For starters, the team relies heavily on Vortex ignitions. Allan Brown designs the same engine package for all his riders, but the Vortex ECU system allows him to make considerable adjustments so he can cater to each rider’s needs. Also note the Ride Engineering triple clamps. Nicoletti switches between 20mm- and 22mm-offset clamps, depending on track conditions.
Like many Yamaha-sponsored riders, Nicoletti prefers to move his engine with a relocation kit. Phil’s engine has been moved 2mm forward to put more weight on the front end. The radiators, which use red Pro Factory radiator hoses, have also been lowered 35mm to move the weight lower in the chassis. A variety of different engine mounts are used to add or reduce flex. The bike has a complete Wiseco clutch, including the basket, hub, pressure plate and stiffer spring, for durability in long, grueling, outdoor motos. Allan Brown says their race engines can last three Nationals before needing to be rebuilt.
The Motion Pro Revolver is a hit with the N-Fab/TiLube team. The kit has different cam reels to change the throttle rate. Phil Nicoletti’s slightly faster throttle pull, combined with the potent Brown Motorsports engine, could get a ham-fisted rider into trouble quickly. The team is sponsored by ODI. Phil likes white Ruffian grips matched with ODI’s new, oversized handlebar that features CFT (Controlled Flex Technology). The crossbar moves to allow the bars to flex in response to impacts.
Ride Engineering plays a major role in the YZ450F’s handling. Adrian Ciomo offers the team a variety of shock-linkage arm lengths and triple-clamp offsets. Phil Nicoletti runs a longer link than stock because it lowers the rear end and stiffens the shock. The link arm is available to the public.
The N-Fab/TiLube Yamaha YZ450F wouldn’t be possible without support from Yamaha, St. Lawrence Radiology, Perfex, Wiseco, Motion Pro, Akrapovic, Ride Engineering, Podium Ink, K&N Filters, Cycra, Mafia M/C, Fusion Graphics, Dunlop, Daniel Crower Racing, Enzo Racing, Tamer, ARC, SDG USA, 77Five, Excel A60, Crank Works, Concepts in Aluminum, Vortex, Sunstar Sprockets & Chains, Metaltek, ODI Grips, Brembo, Dubya, and Bermcannon.