// BY RICH TAYLOR
After four years on the professional racing circuit, Team ECC will tell you that running a dominant satellite team in motocross is no easy task. The financial hardships and pressing responsibilities-combined with intense competition from a seemingly endless array of rival teams-makes the road to the top quite a rough one. In the past, Team ECC has struggled to find the results that they wanted, which in turn has kept them from gaining much high-profile notoriety. Without the exposure and recognition brought by results, it can be difficult for a team to justify the expense and support required to properly run a full season of racing. And with the results and press come sales-not only for the team’s main sponsor, Escondido Cycle Center-but for the many supporting sponsors as well. At the end of last season, Team ECC owner Ron Ketcham and Team Manager Jim Chamberlain decided to make a few changes in order to turn things around for 2005.
To do this, Ron and Jim started from ground zero. The first task was to replace the old players with a promising new lineup, led by veteran racer and previous Supercross winner Damon Huffman. Known as one of the smoothest and most technically perfect racers on the circuit, Damon was flanked by the promising young hot-shoe lineup of Jesse Casillas, Johnny Marley, Brian Gray and Bobby Kiniry, all of whom are very capable of putting in top-five results, and possibly a few podium finishes. With a new cast of riders, Team ECC then switched up most of their main sponsors, which included making the brand change from two-stroke Suzuki motorcycles to the ultra-powerful four-stroke Honda machine.
With these new changes and an aggressive, optimistic attitude toward testing and racing, Team ECC has already shown huge improvements in results. At press time, Damon Huffman had already scored a couple of top-ten finishes, as well as a podium at the Vancouver World Supercross. Looking smooth and strong in the process, Huff Daddy seemed to be right at home on his new bike. Well, we decided to find out just how good Damon’s new bike really is, so after making arrangements with the ECC crew, we headed out to Nick Wey’s private Supercross track and put Huffman’s ECC CRF450 through the paces. Here is what we found from riding the beast:
In stock form, the Honda CRF450R has enough power for about 98% of all racers. But for the 2% who are racing the gnarliest Supercross tracks against the fastest guys in the world, a bit more motor work is required to be competitive. Huffman’s mechanic John Turner started tricking out Damon’s bike by doing some in-house motor work, beginning with the head. After the head is carefully ported, a Hot Cam and piston are installed, along with a Vortex outer clutch basket and a Hinson inner. Pivot Works supplies all of the bearings and seals for the motor, while Honda Pro Chemicals supplies all of the lubricants. A Twin Air filter and cage are used, and a Jardine full-titanium exhaust system serves to save weight and boost the low-end power, while keeping the bike below the 102-db sound limit. After these modifications, Turner went to work on the carburetor, changing the pilot jet from a 42 to a 45, and switching the leak jet (also known as the accelerator jet) from a 55 to a 52, followed by an adjustment of the air/fuel mixture screw to about two turns out. The system is then topped off with VP fuel, one of the team’s official sponsors.
After getting a rundown on the bike’s modifications, we jumped on the track and started feeling out the big 450. The first thing we noticed about the motor modifications is that the worry of coming up short on a jump is no longer an issue on Damon’s 450. In fact, the real worry lies in over-jumping stuff! The strength of the motor makes Huffy’s bike rocket off of even the smallest bump as if it were being shot out of a cannon. Response is amazing! At the slightest crack of the throttle, the bike reacts quickly. There are no bogs or hesitation; just pure, arm-ripping response. Huffy prefers to run a 14/54-sprocket combination over the stock 13/48 setup, which allows him to pull fourth gear through most stadium whoop sections, while still letting the motor rev out in second gear off of certain triples and in tighter sections of the track. This motor simply makes power everywhere; we didn’t once feel like we were in the wrong gear around the entire track. What else can we say? This CRF450R just overflows with raw, massive power!
SUSPENSION AND HANDLING
With such a strong motor, not even Damon Huffman-one of the smoothest riders on the circuit-would be able to control this beast on a Supercross track without some serious handling modifications. As is always the case with Supercross, having good, balanced suspension is key to going fast. Team ECC realizes this, and enlisted the services of MB-1 for all of the team’s suspension modifications. On Huffy’s bike, the forks are revalved to meet the heavy demands of an SX track, and the sliders are coated for less stiction. The shock receives a revalve as well, along with a custom bladder cap and reshaped bump rubber. After the suspension is set up to meet Damon’s riding preferences and weight, the issue of handling is settled. The stock 24mm offset triple clamps are replaced with 22mm Applied Racing units, and Dunlop tires are installed for better grip. Damon prefers to run a 10mm higher SDG seat and 604 Renthal Fatbars, both of which are installed and set up to his standards.
With us not being used to the massive power that Huffy’s bike delivers, it didn’t take long to test the flat landing capabilities of the MB-1 suspension. But thanks to a quality setup, the massive, ground-shaking hit that occurs after “air mailing” the landing of a big triple didn’t even hurt! Of course, the typical underwear change was in order, but wrists and ankles were unfazed through harsh landings. Although the suspension settings were stiff, they still allowed the rear wheel to hook up. The bike gripped like crazy, and was supple enough to track straight across the tops of the whoops. The decreased rake brought from the tighter angle of the triple clamps helped the front end stick in tight, SX-style corners, allowing us to rip inside lines with ease. Also, the light, 224 lb. weight of Damon’s bike had us flicking it around like it was a 250 on speed! Overall, the 450 handled like a champ, and the suspension was good enough to handle the brunt of the motor when ridden aggressively.
No excuses here! After spending a day on Team ECC’s CRF450, it is apparent that Damon is well equipped to redeem the team in 2005. With a bike that handles better than almost any 450 on the track, combined with a motor that is an absolute powerhouse, we won’t be surprised to see Damon’s CRF450-along with Team ECC’s colors-at the front of the pack again soon.