The three Butler brothers started their race team in 2004 as a way of supporting their own racing careers. Eventually, the brothers cut back on their racing and began using their team to help other aspiring pros. The Butler Brothers Motocross team (BBMX) is not a factory-backed, shop-supported or business-driven effort. It doesn’t sell motocross products in addition to racing. Essentially, the race team is a business in itself, and that’s how the Butler brothers have chosen to run it. Their business model isn’t unique in the world of racing, but its longevity is new to the world of motocross. For the 2008 season, the Butler Brothers team had two semis and fielded an amazing (and mind-boggling) seven riders. For the 2009 National season, however, racing budgets are shrinking along with the world economy, and every team has had to tighten its belts. The Butler brothers are no exception.
In the new world order, the Butler brothers decided to focus on fewer riders and put more emphasis on having the best equipment possible for those riders.
BBMX rider Jason Thomas (JT) turned pro in 1997. In fact, when the 2009 450 Nationals began at Glen Helen, it marked Jason’s 125th AMA start. As the veteran of the team, Jason takes a leadership role by virtue of his hard work, upbeat attitude and on-track determination. Jason’s time on the circuit also gives the team a wealth of testing experience. Jason plays an important role in helping develop bike setup for the team.
With many factories talking about cutting back on their in-house race teams next year, it is expected that satellite teams, especially those with a track record for finding sponsors to help pay the bills, might become the front-line teams of the near future. In this scenario, teams like Butler Brothers might play an increasingly large role in the big picture of championship racing?after all, James Stewart won the 2009 Supercross Championship for a privately funded team.
SHOP TALK: HOW’S IT PUT TOGETHER?
The actual workshop behind the Butler Brothers’ bikes is WMI (Willie Manning Inc.) in West Palm Beach, Florida. In fact, the team’s headquarters are based in the same complex as WMI. BBMX works closely with WMI to get their bikes dialed in, and WMI does the important mod work on Jason Thomas’ bike. For the engines, WMI does their own porting, cams, valve trains and ignition programming (with the OEM ignition). They also use a Crankworks lightened and balanced OEM crank and a 13:1 high-compression, coated-skirt, Wiseco piston (along with a Wiseco forged clutch basket, inner hub and pressure plate). KG clutch components offer up the fiber plates, steel plates and springs. For fuel, the team burns VP MR-Pro 4.1 fuel, which is maximized by a customized FMF 4.1 two-piece titanium exhaust system with a PowerBomb header.
Thomas’ WMI-tuned suspension package utilizes the stock Kayaba units with custom valving and internals. Jason runs the standard 0.47 kg/mm front fork springs and a lighter 5.2 kg/mm rear shock spring. The shock is also equipped with an oversized bladder cap for longer life. As for engine cooling, Jason Thomas’ bike has oversized ICW radiators that were braced and rewelded for extra strength. CV4 provides the radiator hoses and 1.8 radiator cap.
IN AN EFFORT TO HELP THE HANDLING OF THE BIKE, THOMAS RUNS APPLIED 24MM OFFSET CLAMPS. THE STOCK 2009 HONDA CRF450 OFFSET IS 20MM. DEVOL PROVIDES THE ENGINE MOUNTS (WHICH ARE DESIGNED TO FEED MORE FLEX INTO THE CHASSIS), STARTING DEVICE, AND ANODIZED PLUGS, CAPS, AXLE BLOCKS, CASE GUARD AND GLIDE PLATE.
In an effort to help the handling of the bike, Thomas runs Applied 24mm offset clamps. The stock 2009 Honda CRF450 offset is 20mm. Devol provides the engine mounts (which are designed to feed more flex into the chassis), starting device, and anodized plugs, caps, axle blocks, case guard and glide plate.
The brakes are aided by QTM’s 270mm oversized front brake rotor. Thomas runs the standard rear rotor, brake pads and brake lines.
As for personal taste, Jason knows how he likes his bike set up: The tip of his clutch lever has to extend right to the end of the handlebar, the race sag has to be exactly 105mm, and according to the team, he is very picky about tire pressure. Thomas also runs custom-made raised IMS footpegs. Completing the pro bike look were Polisport plastics mounted with BBMX Stellar Graphics and a BBMX Throttle Jockey seat cover.
TEST RIDE: HANG ON AND PRAY
As far as ergonomics are concerned, Jason Thomas’ setup is definitely unique. If we had never met Jason, we would have guessed that he was short, just from riding his CRF450. Of course, Jason is short. The 5mm lowered subframe was a relatively conservative modification, but the position of his bars and levers were dead giveaways. The biggest difference was felt in the footpegs. The tall pegs gave every MXA test rider the sensation that he was perched on top of the bike. This was a big plus when railing down SoCal’s long deep ruts, because the footpegs wouldn’t drag. But it did make the bike feel very scrunched up for our six-foot-tall test riders.
JASON’S ERGONOMIC SETUP TOOK A LITTLE TIME TO GET USED TO, BUT HIS POWER PREFERENCES WERE VERY STRAIGHTFORWARD. BBMX’S FUEL-INJECTED BIKE PICKS UP SHARPLY AND PULLS OFF THE BOTTOM WITH PURPOSE. THE POWER PLANT DEFINITELY DOES ITS BEST WORK IN THE MIDRANGE.
Jason’s ergonomic setup took a little time to get used to, but his power preferences were very straightforward. BBMX’s fuel-injected bike picks up sharply and pulls off the bottom with purpose. The power plant definitely does its best work in the midrange. The overall horsepower output isn’t incredible, but the crisp, torquey powerband really hooks up and pulls the bike up to speed in a hurry. While Thomas’ bike makes some usable top-end power, it wasn’t worth revving the engine to get to it (not unlike the stock CRF450 powerband).
WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE PART OF JASON THOMAS’ DNA/BBMX CRF450? THE QTM FRONT BRAKE. JASON SETS THE FRONT BRAKE UP WITH A FAIR AMOUNT OF PLAY IN THE LEVER, SO THE ENGAGEMENT IS LATE. HARD BRAKING BROUGHT THE LEVER TO OUR KNUCKLES.
What was the most impressive part of Jason Thomas’ DNA/BBMX CRF450? The QTM front brake. Jason sets the front brake up with a fair amount of play in the lever, so the engagement is late. Hard braking brought the lever to our knuckles.
Jason Thomas started the 2009 season with a broken leg from the U.S. Open in November (so, he actually didn’t start at the begining of the season). Fortunately, he was able to come back halfway through the Supercross season and notched a top-ten finish at the final round in Las Vegas. In our opinion, Jason Thomas’ setup complements the 2009 Honda CRF450. He has made changes that help the stability of the bike and improve it for the rigors of pro-level racing.