Nov 7, 2013
© 2016, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by Michael Gougis
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**Note: This racer profile originally appeared in the November 2013 print edition of Roadracing World Magazine. Don't miss out on other exclusive content like this found only in Roadracing World Magazine - Subscribe today!**
Krystyna Kubran had bought herself a pre-graduation present, a brand-new Yamaha YZF-R6, and was planning to ride track days with it. Fortunately or unfortunately, she told a family member of her plans. The family member would not hear of it--if Kubran was going to the track, she was going to race, he declared.
Her first race weekend, she finished last in every race. The next time out, she beat someone.
That was a little more than a decade ago. Kubran's beaten a lot of people since then, and she has been a fixture on the West Coast racing scene, competing on 600s and literbikes, mostly with AFM and WERA West. A force in women's racing, she also is a front-runner in literbike competition, nailing down the WERA West Open Superstock Novice title in 2010 after a comeback that reads like something out of a movie.
Kubran's success on the track would not surprise anyone who knows her background. Raised around hot rods and locomotives, she rode horses in rodeos for much of her adolescence. Burned into her from early days was a fascination with big, powerful machinery, as well as a desire to win. "I'm very competitive. The idea of being out there and being competitive was not scary," says Kubran, 36, of Los Angeles.
Kubran spent a lot of time as a child playing with trains and visiting a train museum in Northern California, and later spent time around drag racing cars. She wanted desperately to work on trains, and interned at the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Locomotive Maintenance facility in Barstow, California, en route to earning a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering. Fascinated and obsessed with trains and huge engines, Kubran was known to go searching for locomotive engine memorabilia in unusual places.
"I was constantly dumpster-diving for cool broken parts, busted pistons," Kubran says. "And I got to ride the trains, and they showed me how they ran. I have always had a thing for trains, the biggest machines on land that moved. They were fascinating, so powerful. And the railroads literally built America."
Kubran spent years with General Electric Transportation Systems, working on maintaining and developing locomotive engines. "It was my dream job. It was the raddest job," she says.
And her next job allowed her to work with big diesels as well. Kubran served as Emergency Diesel Generator System Engineer at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s Diablo Canyon nuclear powerplant. But once she was shifted to non-big-engine tasks, her interest quickly waned; "I was extraordinarily bored working there," she says.
Another shift landed her in Southern California, where she joined Garrett Turbochargers and now spends her time working on huge turbo systems for equally huge diesel engines--how big is the engine when the turbo alone weighs 250 pounds? Playing with really big engines for a living, Kubran is enjoying herself once again and is "Happy as hell" in her work life.
Kubran's first motorcycle was a Honda CX500, but it wasn't long before she had purchased the Yamaha YZF-R6 mentioned earlier and was heading for the racetrack. Her first race was with LRRS/CCS at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon in August of 2002. "I remember being excited but terrified at the same time," Kubran says. "I had been riding motorcycles for one year. I had no idea what to expect--all my experience was on horses! I had no experience on two wheels. I didn't ride bicycles, didn't ride dirt bikes. I remember watching two people collide in my first race going into Turn One, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, what the hell am I doing out here?’"
But the fear, Kubran says, was based in inexperience with the activity at hand. The competing part she had no problem with. "I came in last in all my races. Then I went out the next month and I beat one other person. I got very excited about that."
Kubran raced her first WERA event in 2005, and moved to a Suzuki GSX-R600 for the 2007. The following year, she finished third in the Michelin/WERA National Challenge Series 750cc Superstock Novice class on the Suzuki.
But Kubran wanted something with a bigger engine. So she switched to a Yamaha YZF-R1 for 2009, and her results improved. She scored a series of fourth-place finishes on her way to second in the WERA West A Superstock Novice class, fourth in A Superbike Novice, and seventh in Formula One Novice.
In 2010 she earned her first race wins, and a season of podium finishes brought her to the final round in November at Las Vegas Motor Speedway just two points behind the leader in the A Superstock Novice Championship and one point ahead of the third-place rider. Kubran was confident after practice; "I knew I had it," she said.
But Kubran never made it out of Turn One. The third-place rider crashed and his bike took her down, she says, and Kubran was not happy that her Championship seemed to have slipped from her grasp.
"I turned around to see who had taken me out--and I lost it," Kubran recalls. "I was screaming obscenities at this guy. I was so angry--not only was I taken out, but I wouldn't even have a chance to win the Championship. It was all taken away from me--in Turn One."
Her mood started to change when she turned her attention back to the bike. "None of the systems were breached," she says. "When I got back to the pits, my friends dogpiled on the bike. It looked like a NASCAR crew. I was the last person onto pit lane, and I barely made it to the restart."
What Kubran remembers most was that trip down the hot pit lane in Vegas. It runs for a long way along the front straight, and the entire stretch was lined by people yelling, waving and cheering, she remembers.
"It was like a movie. I was thinking, ‘Is this for real?’" she recalls. "But no one's gonna clean me out. I'm going back out there swinging."
Kubran got a decent start, followed the points leader for half the race, made the pass and took a clean second. The pair were tied on points, but because Kubran had won more races, she was declared class Champion.
Kubran still has the need for speed. Assisted by cousin Matt Buanno and Oliver Kho--"my talented pit help, a.k.a. racersitters," Kubran says--she was the Formula Femme Champion in the California State Championship shootout and the WERA West Women's Superstock Champion in 2012. Through 2012 and 2013, she lost only one WERA West Women's Superstock race--to AMA Pro Road Racing competitor Melissa Paris.
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