Sunday, July 12, 2020

IOM visits

A friend recently asked me how many times I had visited the Isle of Man.  The short answer is 28 times, but it took some research and searching the memory banks to come up with that number.

IOM visits

Aug., 1974 I rode my brand new 850 Commando Interstate MK2a, which I had bought in Hamilton, Scotland, to Liverpool and took the overnight ferry to the IOM for the Manx GP before starting an overhaul on a submarine at the U.S. sub base in Holy Loch, Scotland, when I worked as a pipe welder for Electric Boat Div., of General Dynamics.

Sept., 1981 After racing at Donnington and Oulton Parks, I borrowed Alan Latham’s BMW and rode over to the IOM via the Heysham ferry for the MGP with the idea of deciding if I wanted to race there.

May/June, 1982 Raced in the Formula 3 TT on a 350 Aermacchi, finishing 12th after losing time on the last lap in Ramsey replacing the drive chain which had fallen off.

May/June, 1983 Raced in the F-2 and F-1 TTs on a 600 Moriwaki Kawasaki (12th) and a 950 bevel drive Ducati (DNF).

Aug., 1983 Raced in the first Classic Manx GP on a Matchless G-50 finishing 9th Senior after the motor inhaled a stone and bent a valve.

May/June, 1984 Raced in the F-2 TT on a 600 TT-2 Ducati (21st after a long pit stop to straighten a shift lever and replace a bolt in the seat), F-1 TT on the same 600 Ducati (DNF-burst oil line), and the Senior Historic TT (1st).  

Aug., 1984 Passed through the IOM for a day or two on my way from the Ulster GP to Brno, for the Czech GP, racing a TT-2 Ducati.

June, 1985 Spectated at the TT after breaking my ankle at Sears Point 19 May.

Aug.,1986 Raced in the Senior Classic Manx GP on G-50 Matchless (DNF-piston broke)

Aug., 1988 Raced in the Senior Classic Manx GP on G-50 Matchless (2nd, 38.4 sec. behind Phil Nichols, but with the fastest lap in the race).

Aug., 1989 Raced in Senior Classic Manx GP on G-50 Matchless (DNF-crashed at the Bungalow on 3rd lap with almost a minute lead when the frame broke and set the fastest lap in the race).

Aug., 1990 Raced the Junior Classic Manx GP on AJS 7R (DNF when handlebar broke at Quarry Bends). and Senior Classic on G-50 Matchless (2nd, 2.8 seconds behind Bob Heath).

Aug., 1991 Raced the Junior Classic Manx GP on an AJS 7R (16th after shift lever broke) and Senior Classic on a G-50 Matchless (DNF-holed a piston).    

Aug., 1992 Raced the Senior Classic Manx GP on G-50 Matchless (38th after gearbox mainshaft broke exiting Creg-ny-Baa on last lap and coasted and pushed the approximate 3.5 miles to the finish).

Aug., 1993 Raced the Junior Manx GP on a 350 Benelli four (DNF-Crashed at Kerrowmoar on first lap and was helicoptered to Nobles Hospital with a dislocated right hip and broken left fibula).

June, 2002 Rode an 1954 AJS 7R3 in the Lap of Honour at the TT

Aug. 2004 Raced in the Senior Classic Manx GP on an Arter Matchless G-50 (11th)

Aug., 2005 Race in the Senior Classic Manx GP on an Arter Matchless G-50 (DNF-holed a piston).

Aug., 2006 Spectated at the Manx GP with my friend Mary Harvey and we did some marshaling.

June, 2007 Rode in the Centenary Lap of Honour on the G-50 Matchless on which we had won the ’84 Historic TT.

June, 2011 went to ride in the Lap of Honour on a 1911 Indian replica the of the 1911 winning bike but didn’t make the lap because the handlebar broke at the last minute.  

Aug., 2013 Rode the Jurby Festival and the Lap of Honour at the Classic TT on the 1954 AJS 7R3 on which Rod Coleman won the 1954 Junior TT.  It holed a piston on the L.O.H.

Aug., 2014 Rode the Jurby Festival and Lap of Honour at the Classic TT on the G-50 Matchless with which we won the ’84 Historic TT 30 years before.

Aug., 2015 Rode the Jurby Festival and Lap of Honour at the Classic TT on the 1954 AJS E-95 ‘Porcupine’

Aug., 2016 Rode the Jury Festival and Lap of Honour at the Classic TT on the Arter Matchless ‘Wagon Wheels’ on which Peter Williams had three time finished 2nd in the Senior TT.

Aug., 2017 Rode the Honda RC165 250cc 6 cylinder at the Jurby Festival.  Steve Plater rode it in the Lap of Honour, but in dropped a valve on Sulby straight.

Aug., 2018 Rode the Jurby Festival and Lap of Honour on the  Benelli 350 four that I had crashed in the Junior Classic Manx  25 years before.

Aug., 2019 Rode the Jurby Festival and Lap of Honour on the  Surtees Special 7R.

The vast majority of these visits were sponsored by Team Obsolete and I rode on T/O  bikes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Late summer 2019 events

I was lax about recording my activities in the late summer, but have caught up during the Covid-19 lockdown.  The following may seem too wordy for many as I didn't take any photos, but you can find some photos at: and I dug up some photos on the internet or that people sent me.
Aug. was spent preparing for the Classic TT.  For the eight year in a row, Team Obsolete had been invited to participate in the Lap of Honour.  This year for the first time we brought two bikes: the Surtees 7R for me to ride and the MV Electronica 350 four cylinder for Giacomo Agostini to ride.
The Surtees 7R has a chassis designed by John Surtees with a frame designed by him and fabricated by Ken Sprayson of Reynolds Tubing, with Norton forks and rear wheel, and a 230mm Oldani front brake.  Surtees built the bike around 1960 for British short circuit racing, but at the time was contracted to MV and the Count wouldn't let him race it.  Surtees sold it to Rex Butcher who then sold it to Tom Arter for Mike Duff to ride and, after Duff was hired by Yamaha, Peter Williams rode it.  I had ridden the bike a few times in 2017 and 2018, and consider it a sweetheart with exceptional handling.
The MV that Ago was to parade was the last four stroke to win a World Championship 350 GP (at Assen in 1976).  It was dubbed the "Electronica" because the ignition was by Krober electronics,  fitted after the original Mercury magneto couldn't keep up with the high revs the motor reached after years of development.  It has to be considered the ultimate development of an MV race bike with a titanium frame, plasma sprayed aluminum front brake rotors, dampening adjustable Ceriani forks and a very narrow valve angle cyl. head.
On the Saturday, the first day of racing, Seth Rosko and I tried to get in a lap before the roads closed for the races.  It became clear that we weren't going to make a whole lap before the roads closed, but we got by Kirkmichael and I figured we could take a left off the course and drive the back roads up to and around Ramsey, then take the coast road back to Douglas.  But, I missed the last chance to turn left before the marshals stopped us and made us turn to a loop road on the inside of the coarse at Churchtown.  It looked we were going to be stuck there until both races and a following practice were over at maybe 7pm.  We had no food or water with us, but one of the marshals recognized me and gave us some water.  But, we did have an Ordinance Survey topographic map.  I knew a cafe that I had eaten at some years before that wasn't too far, so we headed off cross country, up forestry roads, through fields, over barb wire fences, and forded a stream and finally got to the cafe.  But, it was closed because the only access to it is off the TT course, which was closed.  Duh.  So we pushed on further and crossed the pedestrian bridge near Schoolhouse Corner and got into Ramsey.  We got something to eat and went to Connor Cummings coffee bar, Conrod's, to use the Wi-Fi, and had a brief chat with Connor.
T/O major domo, Rob Iannucci called, crying that he really needed us back at the paddock and why didn't we just take a cab from Ramsey.  That probably would have cost 50 or 75 Pounds.  Then I though of the Electric Railway, so we walked to the station and only had to wait maybe 20 minutes to catch the train.  It was a beautiful day and the views are fantastic.  The railway dates from 1893 and the rolling stock is all Victorian or Edwardian.  The train makes one scheduled stop in Laxey, but one can request a stop at many places on the trip.  The terminus in Douglas is at the north end of the Prom not far from the Regency Hotel where we were staying.  Predictably, when we got back to the hotel, we found that we weren't needed.  Ago, his son, and friend, Fausto Zanetti, had arrived and we all had dinner in the hotel.  Ago wanted to do a lap in the rental car and Seth and I had to retrieve the van.  So, we all piled in with Ago driving and his son in shotgun, Fausto, Seth, and me in the back.  Ago gave a running commentary but, unfortunately, it was in Italian, so Seth and I didn't get the nuances, but there were lots of hand gestures and going over to the wrong side of the road to show the racing line.  They dropped us off at the van, about half way around the TT course,  and carried on.
What started in the morning looking like a disastrous day turned out to be a wonderful day.
A wonderful day for us, until we learned that the 500 Classic race had be stopped because Chris Swallow had died in a crash at Ballaugh Bridge.  The son of Bill Swallow, who was also in the race, he was  a very popular, likable, talented rider.  He had come over to Team Obsolete marquee in the paddock to check out the bikes a couple of days earlier.  We talked about the geometry of the girder forks on the Velo special that he was riding in the Junior Classic.  He told me that he was looking at a photo of his dad on the podium when he had won the Senior Classic Manx in 1989.  He noticed on the leaderboard in the backround of the photo that #20 had been fastest on the first two laps and asked his father who that was, and Bill told him that it was me.  That was the year that I crashed at the Bungalow when I had almost a minute lead on the third of four laps when the frame of the G-50 broke.  Chris' death cast a pall over the event, but it went on as it always does.
Sunday was the Jurby Festival with lapping of classic bikes around the circuit on the disused WII airfield in the north of the Island.  It's always a great time to shake down the bikes before the parade around the Mountain Circuit the next day.  Both bikes worked fine and I don't remember making any adjustments.
riding the Surtees 7R at the Jurby Festival.  Seth Rosko? photo

It was a pleasure spending some time with Ago.  I was really impressed with his patience and graciousness with the non-stop stream of well wishers, autograph and photo seekers.  He's still a superstar.  And, he's still very meticulous and particular about the bike he's going to ride.  In getting ready for the Lap of Honour, Ago went over the MV 350-4.  He always had the grips on the clip-ons and the footrest taped with bicycle friction tape.  The tape on the twist grip was getting tatty and he personally retaped it.   Then he fussed at some length with the fuel level in the tank.  This was just a parade lap, but it was like he went right back into race mode checking every detail and he didn't want excessive fuel in the tank.
It looks like the Bungalow.  Photo by Tracy's Photos
I rode the Surtees 7R and it was a delight to ride around the Mountain Circuit and I had no problems on a fine day, though I did hack up Parliament Square a bit.  A really sweet bike.
Basking in the limelight of two of the greatest: Giacomo Agostini and John McGuinness.  photo by TT USA

I came back to the States a day before the rest of the crew so I could load up my 1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino and the Team Obsolete MV 350 three cylinder to take to the VRRA's Vintage Celebration at Mosport(CTMP).  We had learned some months before that our good friend Doug MacRae had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery in Feb. to remove the bulk of it.  But, it was considered incurable.  Doug is a brilliant photographer and painter and had done a  lot of photography for Team Obsolete.  (  Rob Iannucci decided he wanted to offer Doug a ride on an exotic and the T/O 350 MV three cylinder was the one closest to ready.  Doug lost some peripheral in one eye with the surgery and Ontario took his driver's license away.  He didn't think he'd have any trouble doing some parade laps on his own, but didn't want to be on the track with other racers.  So, it was decided that I would race the bike and Doug would parade it.  I also brought my Dondolino to race in the Pre-50 class.  Our friend Carlos Escudero of Solo Moto (, volunteered to come along and wrench.  I loaded the Dondolino, tools and spares at my house and drove to Brooklyn and loaded the MV, then drove to Greenwich and spent the night with Carlos and his wife.  We left from Greenwich in the morning and arrived at Mosport in the afternoon and got registered and got the bikes through tech.  Saturday, both bikes seemed to go well in practice, but when Doug did his parade laps, he reported that the MV was starting to break up.  We found that the battery was low (the bike uses a total loss points ignition) and assumed that was the problem.
My first race was the Pre 50 heat on the Dondllino and we were gridded behind P2 Heavy weight, Pre 65 500 and Pre 65 350, and P1 200.  I finished 1st in Pre 50, beating the Rudges and Velo, and 5th overall.
Next up was the P2 Lightweight heat.  It quickly became apparent the the low battery wasn't the only problem as one cylinder was kicking in and out and I pulled off after a lap thinking it might be a fouled plug that would clear.  Carlos and I went through the ignition and found a few niggling problems which we corrected and, when we fired up the bike, it sounded good.
In Sunday's one round of practice the MV ran properly again.  During lunch, the sky turned threatening and by the time the Pre 65 500, Pre 65 350, P1 200 and Pre 50 race started it was raining lightly.  I found the turn #5/5A area quite slippery while the Turn #8, 9, 10 area had good traction and, sure enough, someone fell in front of me in #5A, vindicating my tip-toeing through there.  So again I was 1st in class, this time 3rd O.A.
Sunday's Pre 50 final in the rain with Cris Ness #124 on a Velo . Photo by Richard Coburn

By the time the P2 LW race was on, it was raining steadily.  I debated starting at all, but I thought that people would love to hear the MV-3, so I did race, but took it very cautiously as I definitely didn't want to drop the bike.  Again, someone fell in front of me turn 5A and the bike started jumping out of 4th gear and I started shifting from 3rd to 5th in the 7 speed gearbox and I ended up 4th, which was a bit disappointing, but kept it upright.
Some photos here: file:///Users/davidroper/Downloads/VRRA-BaffledMuffler-Vol3-19np%20(1).pdf

A couple of weeks after Mosport was the debut of film Daniel Lovering had done on me, "Motorcycle Man"at the Newberryport Documentary Film Festival.  I rode brother Doug's '77 Moto Guzzi LeMans to my friend Bill Burke's house in Dorchester, Ma.  The next day, we drove to Newberryport and saw the video with two other videos involving wheels, one bicycle racing at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and the other a cross country trip in an old VW bus.  The theater was standing room only and the makers and/or subjects of the videos had a brief Q & A after.  Daniel arranged a lunch with a bunch of friends.  Later Daniel learned that 'Motorcycle Man' was awarded Best Short Documentary by the festival organizers.

The following weekend was the USCRA's Fall Giro, this time based in Oneonta, N.Y.  I rode my '68 TC 200 Suzuki and had a great time.  Photo by Matt Rice
There was an excellent route, with a fair amount of dirt roads.  Sat. morning started out quite foggy, which was challenging, but the day turned very nice and sunny.  We had a check point at Bennett Motors, and Honda/Kawasaki dealership run by Ray Bennett in Fly Creek, N.Y., a vintage enthusiast.  Ray has an extensive collection of vintage bikes on display at the shop.  Among them was a Bridgestone RS 200 built by my late brother Doug, which I had no idea was there.  It was a bitter sweet moment as this was the first Giro I've done without him since he started doing them.
Here's a video that gives the flavor of the event.  My bike @ .40 (seconds)
Sunday evening, I drove to Cortland and spent the night and the next morning went to my friend Steve Keast's house in Ithaca where I picked up a Horex Imperator frame and swing arm to go with the Zundapp Citation motor that I acquired incomplete a couple of years before and for which I had been gathering parts.

The final race of the 2019 season was the Barber Vintage Festival.  I took my H-D 350 Sprint and my 1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino.  But, Gary Roper brought my ex-Mike Bungay 350 Sprint that lives in California with Karl Engellenner, who has developed it into superb race bike.  Gary also brought Karl's sister bike for Walt Fulton to race as well as his own Velocette MAC and Indian Sport Scout.  Racers are required to practice Thurs. and/or Fri., as there is no practice on the race days of Sat. and Sun.  I chose to practice Thurs.  Karl had put new fuel tanks on both bikes, with new fuel taps.  I got out three times on this bike and, while we may have change the gearing once, the bike was working great.  I went out once on the Dondolino and it seemed good.  But, Dave Tompkins asked me if I like to take his Vincent Grey Flash out for a practice, and I definitely did.  The bike was excellent and my quickest lap on it was more than 14 seconds faster than on the Dondolino.  Dave decided that he had to go home to look after his sick dog.  I told him that I'd be happy to race his bike in place of my Guzzi and, after thinking about it a while, he agreed.
'Motorcycle Man' film maker Daniel Lovering and I pose with my 350 Sprint while Karl and Walt work on the sister bike.  That's Gary Roper's Velo MAC on the right.  Photo by Talbot Lovering
It was brutally hot and I was starting to get a little woozy, but I went out in the last round of practice on my ERTT that I had brought with me.  My best lap was just over one second slower than on Bungay/Engellenner Sprint.  Walt had had considerable problems with the sister bike with it cutting out on him more than once.
Friday, I did a walk-about, going to the swap meet, seeing Chuck Hunneycutt, my old sparing partner and now head restorer at the museum, and going to the AMCA display.  Walt did more practice, having never ridden the track before, and Karl decided that the cutting out problem was down to fuel flow.
Saturday, my first race was the 3rd of the day, the 350GP, with 350 Sportsman and Novice Production Heavyweight gridded behind us.  Jack Parker got the jump at the start on his DT1 Yamaha, but I led out of turn#1.  However, we had a red flag on the first lap and we had to do a restart, now for 5 laps instead of 6.  This time I led into turn#1 and was never headed, though early on I thought I saw a wheel in on me going into turn #5, and I presumed that was Alex McLean.  Dean de St. Croix was riding Ken Rosevear's 350 BSA Goldstar Geoff Monty Special replica, a bike that I had race a couple of times and I knew that it and Dean were very fast.  But, Dean had no points in AHRMA and therefore was gridded well back and had to wade through a lot of traffic.  Apparently, he passed Alex on the last lap and he turned the fastest lap of the race (0.057 sec. faster than my best) and finished 2.8 seconds behind me and 0.001 second ahead of Alex.  My bike had a hiccup between turns #10 & 11 on the last lap, which I didn't pay much attention to.  That turned out to be a mistake.  Walt again had his motor cutting out repeatedly as the race progressed and he ended up 5th.
The Class C Hand and Foot shift classes were gridded behind the 200GP class in the second wave.  I was never headed (in Class C) in this race either.  Alex McLean had trouble with his Norton and dropped out on the 4th of 6 laps,  his best lap being 1.4 seconds slower than my best.  In fact, Gary Roper was the only other Footshift finisher on his 350 Velocette MAC.  Dave Bourbeau was the first Handshift finisher, 45 seconds behind.  Tompkins Vincent is a superb machine with excellent power, handling and brakes.  Scott Dell on his Vincent was another of the non-finishers, his bike having seized.  Scott requisitioned the Tompkins Vincent for Sunday and I would ride my Dondolino.
Starting Saturday's Class C race on Dave Tompkins Vincent Grey Flash.  #81 Ralph Wessel, #75a Gary Roper, #35 Doc Batsleer.  Photo by Darleen Dremhel

Sat. night Karl thought of a possible cure for the apparent fuel starvation that Walt was experiencing.  He cut the rubber gasket in the fuel tap so that both the main and reserve fed simultaneously.  Karl asked me if I wanted him to do that on my bike, but I didn't think I had that problem, so decided not to change anything without being able to test it before the race.

Saturday night there was a showing of the Motorcycle Man video on a portable screen in the swap meet area and I got to hang out with Dave Aldana as they got set up.

Aldana mugs with me and Maurice Turgeau, organizer of the showing.  Photo by Talbot Lovering
Alex McLean didn't start Sunday's 350GP, perhaps because he had already cinched the 350GP Championship and with it the Vintage Cup, and four others who raced Sat., didn't start Sun.  So, Dean had 12 people to pass and opposed to the 17 on Sat.  I led from the start, but on the 6th of 8 laps, my motor cut out momentarily on the exit from the chicane, turn #10.  The next lap, it cut out in the same place, but for longer.  On the last lap, Dean passed me in Turn #5 and my motor cut out for what seemed like for ever on the exit to the chicane, and I finished 4.5 seconds behind him.  My fastest lap was 0.3 seconds faster than Sat. (clearly before the motor started cutting out), but Dean's fastest lap was 1.6 seconds faster that he had gone Sat.  So, I don't know if I would have held him off if I hadn't suffered the fuel starvation.  And, we don't know if Karl's modification on the fuel tap would have made a difference because the gearbox on Walt's bike broke early on.
In Sunday's 200GP and Class C race, I started a bit tentatively on my Dondolino having only done a few laps on it three days before, and Dave Bourbeau shot into the lead on his H-D.  Then, Ralph Wessel came by on his Indian.  Alex McLean made a slow start, as he often does.  I had started to get in the groove when he came by and he dragged me along and we both reeled in Ralph.  We then both started closing on Dave, but Alex got by him, beating him by less than 1/4 sec.,  and I didn't, finishing just over 2 sec. behind Dave, 2nd Footshift, but 3rd Class C overall.  My best lap was 4.28 seconds slower than my best on Dave Tompkins Vincent the day before, nothing like the  14 seconds slower in Thurs. practice.
For the 2019 season, I did eight events at eight different venues, entering 32 races and starting 30 of them on six different bikes owned by three different people.  I had 18 class wins, six 2nd, four 3rds, one fourth and one DNF.  I didn't crash once, which is rare for me.  A good year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

AHRMA Rd. Am./Gingerman 2019

During the Covid-19 shut down of April, 2020, I've had a chance to catch up on some of the events that I never got to last year.

Near the end of July, 2019, I drove out to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wi. for the AHRMA race there.  Since the previous race at Calabogie, I had taken the Dondolino motor apart and re-indexed the gearbox selector.  I was able to test both bikes at my secret test site before I left, and I had all four gears on the Dondo, but it wanted to pop out of 1st gear.  I figured that was worn dogs  and that I only needed 1st for the start and I could live with it.  While I had records of the gearing for my ERTT, I didn't for the Dondo, but guessed correctly and both bikes were geared close to perfectly.  In practice on the Dondo, I discovered that usually I had to 're-cock' the shifter on the up shifts.  That is, after pressing down on the shifter to select the next gear, I'd have to lift up on the lever lightly for it to engage for the next upshift.  Shifting in general is awkward on this bike, but it was running well and the brakes were good.  The ERTT seemed good immediately.  I was in race #11 on the Dondo and the final race #13 on the ERTT so, finishing practice at about 10:30a, I had to wait until about 4:30p to race.  Race #11 had three waves with F-250 in the first, 200GP in the second, and Class C foot shift and handshift in the third and was only 3 laps of this 4.048mile track.  Because lap times are so long, warmup and cool off laps eat up a lot of time, limiting the amount of time actually racing.  I found that holding the shift lever down kept the gearbox from jumping out of gear and I got a decent start.  Alex McLean on a rigid, cammy Norton and Dave Tompkins on a Vincent Comet pulled away.  I went back and forth with Dave Bourbeau on his tank shift H-D.  I had motor and brakes on him, but he could corner faster than me.  When pressed hard, the back end of the  Dondo dances around luridly. The friction shocks, flexy frame and 21” , WM1 (0?)wheels front AND rear limit the cornering ability, where as Dave’s H-D as a nice solid rear end and a big, fat tire.  And, he’s an excellent rider.  Dave prevailed and I finished 3rd foot shift and 20th overall out of the 32 starters.  The last race of the day was 350GP in front of 350 Sportsman  in the first wave and 250GP and Formula 125 in the second wave.  I got a reasonably good start, but a couple of the 350 Sportsman bikes came by immediately.  I dove under everyone into turn #1, but Eric Cook and Greg Potter came by on there 350 Honda’s and the three of us swapped back and forth.  Again, I seemed to have a little top end on them, probably because I had a fairing and they can’t in Sportsman, and I had brakes on them with my 4 LS 230mm Ceriani and probably less weight, but maybe they had acceleration on me.  Eric dropped out the 2nd lap and I pulled away from Greg.  Alex McLean got by Greg and we were both surprised to see the checkered flag at the end of the 3rd Lap the race having been shortened because of earlier delays, unbeknownst to us. I won by less than 3/4 of a sec., with the fastest lap of the race.
I pitted next to Kenny Cummings and NYC Norton.
Sat. eve, I rode my ‘68 TC200 Suzuki about 6 miles over to Kiel for dinner with friends.
Sunday’s race on the Dondolino was much the same as Sat., except that the gearbox did jump out of 1st gear at the start, so I didn’t get as good a start.  Again I was 3rd Class C footshift and behind Dave  Bourbeau and 17th O.A., and about half a sec. slower overall time.
For the 350GP race on Sun., this time we all knew it was going to be a 3 lap race. I again dove under  the faster starters into turn #1 and  had less of a tussle with Eric Cook.  On the 3rd (i.e. last) lap, Alex tried to out brake me into turn #8, but got in too hot and off line and ran wide onto the rumble strips and I thought that that was the last I’d see of him.  But, he made an incredible recovery and timed the draft beautifully and just pipped me at the line by less than 2/3 of a sec.  My fastest lap was 0.019 sec. slower that Sat. and Alex’s was more that 2 1/4 seconds faster.  Good stuff.

There was a bike show and this 125 Bultaco Streaker  was one of the more unusual bikes.

Pat Fitzgerald had his Excelsior Henderson four there.

The first Yamaha R1, or YRI as it was officially designated 

I spent Sun. night with my friend in Kiel, then went to Chicago in the morning and spent several days with old friends in Chicago.  Wed., evening a bunch of the ChiVinMoto folks got together in a collective garage space to host out of towners Greg Glevicky and myself.
Fri. morning, I drove to Gingerman Raceway, near South Haven, Mi.  After the first practice on the Dondolino, I played with the external adjustment on the gearbox selector and got it so it wouldn't jump out of 1st gear and I didn't have to 're-cock' the shifter on the upshifts.
Jason Roberts long stroke, wet clutch 200GP CRTT

Keith Leithy’s 450 Honda based racer ridden by Andrew Mauk

My wheels at Gingerman

The 350GP/350 Sportsman race was my first.  Alex McLean got an excellent start and began to pull away and I thought 'I'm not catching him today'.  But, after a couple of laps, he seemed to miss a shift and I closed.  He seemed to be getting ragged and I got by him and pulled away, winning by almost 5 3/4 seconds and having the fastest lap, despite the fact that my tach stopped working during the race.  Alex told me after that his tires were shot and he was sliding around.
In the Class C race, I again went back and forth with Dave Bourbeau passing him on the brakes and straights, he passing me in the corners.  I was ahead of him down the back straight on the last lap when I came upon a 250GP and a F-250 rider.  I thought that I had to get through the last corner ahead of them to keep Bourbeau at bay.  But, I ended up getting into the corner way too hot and off line and ran wide and three of them passed me back and I ended up 3rd in class and 19th overall.
Alex loaned me a tach for Sun. and, though it didn't seem accurate, I still thought it would be useful.  He mounted new tires on his bike and in the race he went a good deal faster than he had Sat., and I went somewhat slower and he beat me by almost 21 seconds, his fastest lap being about 2 1/14 secs faster than Sat., mine 1 1/4 slower that Sat.  This was the third time that I had beaten him on Sat. and he beat me on Sun.
In the Class C race I was also slower than Sat.  Kyle Corser, who had problems on his tank shift H-D Sat., and didn't finish, clearly had resolved those problems and was flying, dragging Dave Bourbeau along with him and out of my reach.  My fastest lap was about half a second slower than Sat.  I guess I peak early.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Brno August 1984

This is a photo of Tony Rutter (in the middle) which I apparently 'photo bombed' (on the right) in the paddock at Brno for the Czech GP in 26 August, 1984.  We're both on Ducati TT2s.  I've lost track of who took the photo, but it was one of the thousands of East Germans who came to the event.
This is from the same event and I did keep track of who took this photo: H-P Gerschner

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tony Rutter

I just hear that Tony Rutter died at the age of 78 after a brief illness.  While I didn't really know him, I think we were seven races together.  The first race I ever did at the Isle of Man was the F-3 TT which was run concurrently with the F-2 and Tony won that on a TT2 Ducati, while I was 12 in the F-3 on a 350 Aermacchi after the chain fell off on the last lap in Ramsey and I spent a while getting in back on and restarting.  In '83, I ran the F-2 and F-1 TTs and Tony won the F-2 on a Ducati, while I was 12 in the F-2 on a Morwaki Kawasaki and DNFed on a 950 bevel drive Ducati in the F-1 race when the gearbox broke.
Again in '84, I ran the F-2 and F-1 races and Tony again won the F-2 race and was 3rd in the F-1 on Ducatis, while I was 22nd in the F-2 after a lengthly pit stop to repair the shift lever which I has grounded and bent back at Sarah's Cottage on the 2nd lap and was able to shift up to 5th gear on the Cronk-y-voddy straight, but then found that I couldn't down shift and completed the rest of the lap, including Ramsey Hairpin and Governors Bridge, in 5th gear.  I only got to the Gooseneck on the 1st lap of the F-1 TT, where a fitting on the oil cooler let go, spraying me in oil.  Later that day, I won the Senior Historic TT.
Later that year I raced at Villa Real, Portugal in the TT F-1 race and while I don't know for sure, I assume Tony was in the race.  I only made a couple of corners in that race before I got shunted into a haybale and broke off the shift lever riding a TT1 Ducati.  In August of that year, the Ulster GP at Dundrod and the Czech GP at Brno were back to back and I race the TT F-2 class at each of them.  Again, I don't have complete results, but I assume Tony was at Dundrod.  I had a good race and finished 6th.  The next weekend, I race in Brno, Czechoslovakia after traveling through the I.O.M, Paris, and Vienna.  I know Tony was there because I have a photo of the two of us on our Ducatis in the pits.  Again, I don't know where Tony finished, but I had another good race and ended up 7th in a race that was part wet through the 10.925 Km. street circuit with a reputed 400,000 spectators.

Tony won 4 TT F-2 World Championships, 7 IOM TTs and numerous North West 200s.  He was one of the truly great road racer and did well to make it to 78 years of age after almost dying in a huge crash at Monjuich Park in 1985.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Roebling Road 2020

For the second race of the season, I drove down to Roebling Road Raceway in Bloomingdale, Ga., with my CRTT and ERTT Sprints.  This would be the first run on the CRTT since I discovered that the crankcase was cracked after racing it at NJMP (and winning both 250GP races) Memorial Day weekend of last year.  I replaced the crankcase with '67 SS road bike cases, which had to be modified for the bigger diameter sleeve gear, bearing and seal on the transmission output.  Bill Himmelsbach did the shimming and assembly and when I took it to my secret test site, it fired right up and had no leaks or issues.

I arrived Fri. afternoon after driving through heavy snow in Va. and N.C. Thurs. night.  I got my pit setup and the bikes through scrutineering.  It got very cold that night and there was frost everywhere in the morning.  I took it very easy in practice, but gradually worked up a little speed.  The CRTT wasn't running correctly, hesitating and cutting out.  I wondered if it was running lean because of the cold dense air, so went to put in a larger main jet.  But, I found the main jet laying in the jet holder, so just screwed it back into the carb tightly.  The motor ran much better in the second practice.  The ERTT ran well and the gearing seemed perfect.
Alex McLean is on the pole for the 350GP race to my left out of the photo.  photo by Darleen Dremel

The 350GP race was my first, with 350 Sportsman gridded behind us.  I got a good start and went straight in the lead.  On the 2nd lap, Alex McLean drafted by me toward the end of the straight.  On the third lap, Kevin Dinsmoor came by the both of us on his Sportsman bike, but perhaps braked a little early into turn #1 and balked Alex a bit and I went under the both of them and back in the lead.  After a couple of laps, Alex drafted by me again near the end of the straight.  He seemed to have a little motor on me and I could stay in his draft, but couldn't pass him.  On the last lap, we came up on a backmarker going into Turn #4 and I got by him, but Alex didn't.  I was thinking that I had a shot at the win, as Alex had only drafted passed me well after the Start/finish line, but he was right on my tail and timed the draft perfectly and beat me by 0.034 seconds.  It was a very fun race.
I congratulate Alex McLean after a great race.  Darleen Dremel photo

The 250GP class was gridded in the second wave behind 500 Premiere, Formula 500, and 500 Sportsman.  Again, I got a good start and went straight into the lead.  I won the 250GP class by more than 30 seconds and passed 15 of 28 starters to finish 13th overall with the 12th fastest lap.  What I didn't realize was that my arch nemesis and good friend Jack Parker had crashed his DT1 Yamaha on the warmup lap.  Things would be different Sun.
I wait to start my CRTT before Saturday's race.  Darleen Dremel photo

While it was slightly warmer Sun. morning, there was still frost about when I arrived at the track.  I took the CRTT out in practice gingerly the first lap, but then tried to go too fast too soon and tucked the front end in turn #3 and tumbled for a while.  The knuckle on my left little finger, my left forearm, and left hip got minor abrasions, but nothing serious.  The bike wasn't too bad, but the clutch lever was broken, the tach cable broken, the transponder had got ripped off the bike (but was recovered) and the carb was full of dirt.  When I took the carb off, I saw that there was dirt down the port and the intake valve was slightly open with a grain of sand sitting on the valve seat.  So the cylinder head had to come off if I was going to race the bike.  Dick Miles started to help, then Erik Green happened by and sprung into action.  When we took the head off, the Helicoil for one of the exhaust bolt came out.  Then Al Hollingsworth came by and he had a Helicoil kit and went and fetched it.  Erik decided that the intake valve had to come out as it wasn't sealing.  I pulled out my valve spring compressor, lapping compound and suction stick.  But, AHRMA had accelerated the scheduled for Sun., and there were three races before lunch, the second being the 350GP.  I went off to race while the crew continued to work on the 250.  I got a good start, but Alex soon came by.   I went a little slower than Sat., and he slowly pulled away and won by over 5 seconds with me 2nd overall.
Putting the CRTT in gear to pull it back on compression.  Darleen Dremel photo

Fortunately, the 250GP was after lunch and we worked straight through.  At some point, Jim Jowers came over and told Erik that he had a flat tire on his sidecar and he went off to deal with that, as the sidecar race was immediately after the 250GP race, which was first after lunch.  For some reason, with the new Helicoil in the head, a longer bolt was needed and Al went off to find one.  When I turned the crank to get the piston at TDC, it lifted the cylinder off the crankcase and dirt fell down in the joint, so we had to pull the cylinder well up to clean and reseal it. 
Al Hollingsworth putting the head back on the motor.  Dave Hollingsworth photo.

We removed the tach cable, but the tach drive was still binding, so we removed that, too.  The front mudguard was cracked and rubbing on the tire, so when we pulled the bike down off the bench, Dick straightened the forks which were tweaked and the mudguard cleared.  We fired up the motor just as they were making 3rd call, and I rode straight down to pit road and onto the track without stopping.  I took a pretty tentative warmup lap and gave the motor a good look on the grid and didn't see any leaks.   Again, I launched straight into the lead, but on the 2nd lap Jack Parker drafted by.  But, I could draft by him if I got on his tail on the straight.  We went back and forth and I was leading when I took the white flag starting the last lap.
Leading Jack Parker at the white flag.  Dave Hollingsworth photo

I was getting a good draft behind Mark William's H1 Kawasaki when, near the end of the straight the motor lost power and I pulled in the clutch and coasted to a stop at turn #2.  It turned out that the sparkplug lead and fallen off, which is a lot better than a rod through the case.  And, I was still scored as 2nd even though I didn't finish the last lap.  I guess that Chris Spargo, the overall leader on his F-500 Yamaha had lapped everyone behind me, so I did my 7 laps before anyone else in the 250 class.  And, if the plug lead hadn't fallen off, neither Jack or I was sure who would have won.  So, it was an exciting, successful, fun weekend despite the crash in the middle.  Many thanks to Erik and Henry Green, Al Hollingsworth, Dan Levine, and Dick Miles.

Dick Miles imparts some wisdom to me.  Darleen Dremel photo
I tell Dr. Dan Levine how it is.  Darleen Dremel photo.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Laguna Seca 2020

I've raced at Laguna Seca on seven different occasions going back to 1982 (which was a shorter circuit then without the current turns #3, #4, and #5).  The last time I raced there was 1989.  The last time I rode there was 2008, when I did a Moto Giro based in Monterey and we got to do a lap of the circuit, me on my '53 250 Airone Sport (I crashed).
In Fri. practice, I was second out in my group and first out, Brian Larrabure, crashed on the pit out road before he even got on the circuit.  This freaked me out, as it didn't look like he was going fast, and I slowed way down.  I started gingerly on the circuit and when I got to turn #5, I saw the red flag.  So, I threw my hand up and putted slowing ahead.  Even at this pace, I blew the corkscrew, forgetting how tight it was and ended up on the rumble strip going down the right.  In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that I did my first lap of the circuit in almost 12 years under the red flag.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  But, everything went well for my four rounds of practice in beautiful weather.
I had entered 350GP and 'bumped-up' to 500 Premiere with my 350 Sprint.  I noticed in practice that my times were better than Andrew Mauk on Keith Leighty's 450 Honda, one of my competitors in 500 premiere, but I didn't put too much stock in that as it was Andrew's first time at Laguna.  The sunshine ended around 4:30p when the fog rolled in and the last two practice groups didn't get their last round of practice.
The fog was very slow to lift Sat., and there ended up being no practice and we went straight to racing after lunch.  My first race was the 500 Premiere.  We were in the second wave behind the first wave of Sound of Thunder 3 (which consists on SV650s and 750 Ducatis and such).  Behind us in the 2nd wave was Formula 500, and 500 Sportsman, with Lightweight Novice Production in the third wave, 42 entrants in total.  Brian Larrabure, on his Minovation Seeley G-50, now without a windscreen after his Fri. crash, and Andrew Mauk came by me almost immediately and gradually pulled away.  Mark Morrow on his two stroke Yamaha came by the three of us to win the F-500 class and Ari Henning, on his 350 Sportsman Honda, finished 0.001 seconds behind me to win his class.  I was 11th overall.
The 350GP followed after two races and we were gridded in front of 350 Sportsman in one wave.  I got the holeshot, but Ari Henning came by before we got to turn #2 and pulled away, but no other bikes challenged me.  I finished more than 16 seconds behind Ari, but more than 30 seconds ahead of my teammate Walt Fulton III, who was second in class, third overall.  My best lap was more than a second quicker than in the 500 race.
Sunday was sunny, but windy.  We did get one round of practice in and I just did two laps to make sure everything was alright and get my mind right.  But, all the 8 lap races were shortened to 6 laps as they had run out of time on Sat.  In the 500 Premiere, again I was first off the line and again Brian and Andrew came by me, but this time I was able to hang with them.  On the second lap, Brian was leading and I was second when he seemed to check up early in turn #6 and being right on top of him, I stuffed it inside him and there was light contact.  He immediately shot off the track, but it seemed he decided to rather than it was out of his control.  In subsequent laps, I saw him standing with his bike at the barrier on the outside of the turn.  Had I damaged his bike when we touched?  No time to think about that now as Andrew was all over me.  On the last lap, I was leading when Andrew stuffed inside of me in turn #6 and again there was light contact.  I lost my drive a bit and Andrew pulled ahead up through the Corkscrew.  There was traffic ahead and I was able to get ahead and win the race.  What I didn't realize was that one cylinder of Andrew's twin quit and that's why I got by him.  Brian's drive belt had broken, probably the result of his Fri. crash and getting gravel in it, and that's why he suddenly slowed.  Mark Morrow and Ari Henning didn't start the race.  Andrew's fastest lap was about 1/2 second faster than mine.
In Sunday's 350GP it was pretty much a repeat of Sat., with me getting the jump and Ari coming by early and pulling away.  I only finished 1.5 seconds behind Ari as he had a problem and slowed towards the end.
One of the highlights of the weekend was getting to spend time with Ari Henning and Zack Courts.  I raced with both of their dads in the '90s and they both grew up at the track.  Ari's dad Todd came to Laguna to see his son race and everyone was happy to see him.  Ari and Zack are best of friends and both superb racers.  Zack won Sound of Thunder 2 and Sound of Singles 1 riding a Kramer for the North American distributor.  Years ago, Ari got a job at Motorcyclist Magazine and  brought Zack there.  In addition to both writing for the magazine, they did very creative and funny videos.  They left Motorcyclist and went to Motor Trend when it started doing online videos.  Now that has ended, but they have plenty of projects in the works.  I was very flattered that Zack took the time to photograph me at various places around the circuit.
all photos by Zack Courts.