We catch up with the 2016 champion of the BT and the newest member of the Throttle Heads Racing in this edition of Meet The Riders.
See interview after the cut
NM: Can you introduce yourself to the folks that are not familiar with you.
SAMA: My name is Ogunlola Ibukunoluwa. I am based in Ibadan city, and a member of Pilleum Riding Club
NM: You are not new to racing, you were the champion at the last closed course in 2016. Many thought it was a surprise even seeing as you beat the defending champion, Jack Afara. What was going through your head while riding the 33km course?
SAMA: I will share a little story that led to 2016. When I heard about the BT in 2014 I was happy, and began preparation, but that didn’t go according to plan. In 2015 I was in Uyo with the Millennia Motorbike Club, where I met a lot of wonderful people, I-rider, JW John Wayne, Robocob, ironbar, oga Chris, CocoB, ime peters, Prazu, INI tigress. Then we rolled to Benin on two wheels, then raceday, a lot of crashes during warm up Then I changed strategy, even though I wasn’t familiar with the road course. It was a learning year for me though I placed 3rd on the podium. Some said otherwise but it did not matter to me. 2016 was a good year, 364 days of planning and 1 day of execution. With the support of my personal manager Olaide, logistics and other things were taken care of. Practice lap was the calm before the storm, people were already in sub 10 minutes.
Then race day, under the scotching heat of Uhronogbe sun, the 600cc guys got the crowd pumped up but all they could see was the start through turn 2. Then the 1000cc guys lunched, the symphony of the exhaust notes was music to my ears. I warmed up 2007 kawasaki zx10r sat at the start line focused. It was 9 minutes of awesomeness. I felt I could be faster after the race and wanted to again, but that would be crazy. But we won. Thanks to Jesus and Trinity racing team.
NM: The transition from closed road to track was not quite a smooth one. You came in P5 at the inaugural track race in November 2017. A number of people had you as one of the favorites, what happened there?
SAMA: It wasn’t a smooth one, I had imagined it to have a happy ending, but I glorify Jesus for everything. The mishap was due to a technical hitch, and we learnt from the situation. As the defending champion, I needed to defend the title, but things didn’t go as planned. The new track conditions were not favorable, and we also had a technical issue during practice. Replacement parts didn’t arrive until few hours to race time. We worked all night and morning, with the help of Zen, Bamidele IMAB industrial workshop (you can look IMAB up on Instagram, he builds race cars go karts, turbocharged vehicles). Okey, Trinity racing and the team principal of 24-7 racing, I was able to participate in the opening event. We didn’t have a qualifying time so we started at the back of the grid. Lights out, race on, I was P3 by turn1. Held it for about 10 laps, then I had a strange response from the bike, then I eased up on the throttle and decided to go home in one piece rather than 2.
NM: You did not partake in Q1 due to a get off, can you talk us through what happened? Most riders complained about the track being dirty. Was this a factor?
SAMA: Q1 was a sit out for me because track condition was still not good, but I was there to observe it’s curing progress.
NM: You had a barnstorming Q2 session. In fact, it looked like you were going to go home with the fastest time ever at the track until Gbenga of BKG racing session which happened to be the last of the day. What were the emotions before, during and after his run.
SAMA: Q2 was supposed to be in Easter but was cancelled. So waited till May. I arrived a night before Q2, pulled the bike out of the garage and got to work. Dawn was upon us and I started testing and practicing after a long time. I had the feeling again, and gradually increased the pace. I went first and posted a time that we all know. It was actually a surprise to me because I didn’t time myself during practice so I had no idea what time I would post. Gbenga is a very fast rider aboard his BMW S1000rr, so it’s a privilege to race with him. When I heard that he posted another fastest time, I smiled, its good to have competition. I’m glad I have a qualifying time now.
NM: From the inaugural race in November 2017, we have seen the times tumble with each passing track day. What time do you reckon will get you in P1 in Q3? Plus are you in the group that thinks we will see a sub 60 seconds?
SAMA: I wish i could see into the futre, but i can write one. I guess we will see how Q3 unfolds. Lap times will drop faster now, because its easy to shave time off your lap time when you are garbage, when the time comes that what you’re looking for is 10th of a second then you are fast. I still believe we would have a 60s time very soon.
NM: You started out the season in Trinity Racing but have since moved on to the newly found team, ThottleHeads Racing. Can you talk us through the need to change?
SAMA: Trinity racing is very much alive, but a tree doesn’t make a forest. With emerging teams and racers, and also some pending regulations, hence the merger. I could have finished the year has Trinity racing, but the night before Q2, while I was fixing my bike, the sun set and was out of day light, Jack Afarra, lit up his off road lights on his truck for 5hrs, while Ime peters and his wife stood by me the whole time. Ikem aka Badblood is brother to me, so when the offer came, the team relationship was already there.
NM: You will be racing head on against the Jack, team principal. Will you allow ‘Oga’ past you if it comes down to it?
SAMA: We all know that Jack is a very competitive person, so there is no “oga pass” anything for this matter. We are a group of racers willing to push each other to find new limits plus I want to Win.
NM: What does your preparation for track day consist of typically especially as time between qualifiers is quite far apart?
SAMA: The qualifier times ought to be far apart in my opinion for this year because of track proximity, resources involved, and because its new waters that we are exploring. Work does not stop on the race bikes, we find new ways to make improvement, make the bike comfortable and then the cycle again until track day. A lot of physical input, as we will be racing under the scotching heat of the sun. We boost our electrolytes, to prevent cramps and dehydration. Listen to good music and stretch.
NM: Which of the teams would you say are the most competitive especially in comparison to Throttle Heads?
SAMA: Teams have not shown there joker card yet, some are holding back, while others are having private trackdays and collecting data. So its difficult to say. 24-7 racing is not joking especially with newly acquired race bikes, BKG also very competitive, Argo…
SAMA: You are welcome, I would like to thank MOTO the owner of MRE for the opportunity to express our passion.