FMF Racing: Operation Power

On Thursday, FMF Racing held a new product intro out at the fun-and-yet-to-be-opened Competition Edge MX Park in Hesperia, CA. Dubbed “Operation Power” the FMF crew showed off a whole bunch of new goodies which are slated for a February release, which means we mostly can’t talk them…yet. But, we can drop a few hints, courtesy of Donny Emler, Jr…better known as Li’l D. “Style’s an important key these days. Everyone wants their bike to look really good, so we wanted to make sure our silencers had a whole new look. We used a lot of the same features, but also moved into a new material on the high end.”

“Our Chamber Core was patented last year, but for next year it’s all made out of titanium, so it’ll be the lightest muffler on the market for sure. The oval shape, that’s still the same. But we came up with a new look that fits the bike and looks like it’s made to the bike. We wanted to have something kind of fashionable that people want to put on their bikes.”

“You guys are the first ones to try this stuff and even see it. None of our race teams have even tested it. Big D (Donny Emler) and George (Luttig), our four-stroke development guy, were in the shop until about 12:30 finishing up a couple of the pieces.”

While we’ll admit that those info nuggets may be about as unsatisfying as a slice of bread and a cup of water for lunch, the new product did look pretty darn good, and was definitely feathery light. But we also got to spend some time with George Luttig, who filled us in on some of what FMF has been doing with the PowerBomb and MegaBomb four-stroke pipe development.

How did the PowerBomb start out? We’ve joked with Donny that he was dropping some two-stroke technology into the four-stroke pipes.

“What we learned early on was that by adding a chamber to the header pipe in a certain location we could affect the powerband, and generally have a positive affect on the powerband. The riders overwhelmingly would always like this, and it was very popular.”

“The older style looks like a small glass pack muffler. The problem with the older PowerBomb is, the stainless wool, because it’s so close to the exhaust port, would actually bake. Depending on how you’d ride, it could be gone in a very short period of time. “

We were also trying to find ways that we could reduce the noise. We thought, ‘We can’t have a five-foot-long muffler, but maybe there’s a way we could actually increase the volume, and make this more of a pre-muffler than it already is.’ The PowerBomb almost always reduced sound, but on some bikes you couldn’t even measure the difference. On other bikes it made a significant difference.”

“So on the MegaBomb we increased the volume substantially, but thought, ‘Well, this much packing medium isn’t going to work out well.’ So we went to tuned ports in the chamber. It made it where the sound level was still the same as with the packing medium, and it also changed the power characteristics a little more. When we increased the volume to really try and take out more of the sound, it made a remarkable difference in the power—to such an extent that we changed the dimensions and the length of the pipe and it works really well. It’s a difficult product to make, so we didn’t know if it would be something that we could produce for the average consumer. But when we ran it on the Yamaha of Troy bikes, the interest was so great that we thought, ‘You know what? We need to try and make this.’ We do all of our metal forming in-house, so we’re able to design dies that a lot of the tool shops won’t even attempt to make. We can experiment, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“We also discovered that when we went to the added chamber, the head pipe didn’t need to be as long. With the pipes that you’re seeing on a lot of the bikes now, they’re getting really vulneble. I have to say that we do see it in the sales. The headers are becoming a consumable part again, like the old expansion chambers. With this, we’re actually able to bring the head pipe up a little higher, which should be better for the consumer.”

Our readers are always asking how they get started on a career in motocross. What’s your background? How did you end up at FMF?

“I’m an engine builder by trade. I used to do engine development for Yamaha’s Marine division, and stuff like that. I was involved with DSP, with some of their pipes that they were doing with Yamaha, and through that connection, I did contract work for Donny. I would work down there, and he’d say, ‘You know, we’d like to have you around a little more often.’ So the then thing I knew, I was there full-time. I still have my shop, but I have it there mostly for my own amusement, because it’s fully equipped with a dyno and machinery and stuff, and on weekends, I still continue to do this. This is a passion. If I was working for the phone company, I would still be doing this. I really enjoy it.”

“It’s kind of cool to work with Donny and the guys. This really wasn’t my idea, I have to give the credit for that one to Raul Mandajuno, one of the guys in our shop. He told Donny, ‘Hey, I want to do this,’ and Donny said, ‘Yeah, go ahead.’ Whatever we want to try, he gives us a lot of flexibility, and I think you see it in FMF products. As an example, on the Factory 4, on the front cap, we weren’t going to do it, because we Donny initially felt that we wouldn’t be able to form the cap. I had an idea, and it involved making some expensive tooling, and he said, ‘All right, go ahead.’ It worked out. Fortunately, he’s very open-minded, and gives us a long leash to build this stuff.”

“There’s also a lot of challenging each other. One of us might say, we don’t think something is practical or possible, and Donny will say, ‘Oh yeah? I’ll show you.’ Then he’ll do it. We kind of go back and forth that way, trying to prove each other wrong. Do the undoable.”

“We don’t have a laboratory per se. That whole facility is our lab. There are talented people throughout our shop, and we prefer to bring the guys up from within. That way they know the business inside and out, and the ones with lots of creative energy are the guys we want to have in R&D.”

With high-performance four-strokes like we have now, and being able to development like this, does it make it fun?

“It’s very exciting. I’m happy to be a part of it. But if we want the freedom to be able to modify our motorcycles, we need to be a little proactive on our own about the sound issue, and make things a little more responsible.”

“I think that the dynamic of sound is great, because before, it was just power. Yeah, you need to make power, and make a particular type of power. Honestly, all the pipes made by the major manufacturers aren’t a representation of the maximum amount of power those guys can make, including ourselves. It’s the type of power that that company chose to make. So now the dynamic is sound. What type of power will the rider want? What sound level will they have to meet in their area? That’s going to happen over the next couple years, and that’s going to make it really interesting. That’ll make it a lot more technologically demanding. In the past, any good pipe guy could take a bike, and with an afternoon on the dyno, he could make as good a pipe as anyone else. There are probably ten guys in the U.S. that could do that. Put sound into the mix, and it’s going to make it a lot different. It’s going to be a lot more challenging. I’m looking forward to that. We’ve been on it for a while. We made The Q before there was really a market for it, and a lot of people were kind of critical of us, saying that we’re making it easier for the legislators to impose sound regulations. That’s a narrow view, because these regulations are going to happen anyway.”

While talking with George, one of our TWMX testers had been riding with a PowerBomb (and new top secret silencers) on his ’05 Honda 450F. When quizzed about the performance, he said, “I thought it worked great. I did my first moto with the stock pipe and muffler, then up on the FMF setup. It pulled really well on the mid and top, and produced 100% usable power. I’d ridden another brand pipe recently, and the power was just brutal. This one was very smooth and was very easy to ride. It was deceiving, though. I overshot the first corner at the end of the straight.”

Now we just have to wait for mid-January to show you the rest of the goodies…

 

 

hat’s a narrow view, because these regulations are going to happen anyway.”

While talking with George, one of our TWMX testers had been riding with a PowerBomb (and new top secret silencers) on his ’05 Honda 450F. When quizzed about the performance, he said, “I thought it worked great. I did my first moto with the stock pipe and muffler, then up on the FMF setup. It pulled really well on the mid and top, and produced 100% usable power. I’d ridden another brand pipe recently, and the power was just brutal. This one was very smooth and was very easy to ride. It was deceiving, though. I overshot the first corner at the end of the straight.”

Now we just have to wait for mid-January to show you the rest of the goodies…