Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Friday, August 16, 2019

Winningest TT riders

Back on 14 Dec., 2012, I posted on this blog about the winningest riders at the IOM TT, tracing the the title from Alec Bennett to Stanley Woods to Mike Hailwood to Joey Dunlop to John McGuiness. 
I also commented on these and other rider's percentage of wins to starts and said that Hailwood lays claim to being the greatest TT rider having won 40% of the races he started.  I didn't check every rider's win percentage and there may be a rider who only raced once and won or even twice and won once, thereby eclipsing Hailwood's 40%, though I doubt it.  But, in anticipation of spending a few days with Giacomo Agostini at the Classic TT, where we're both riding Team Obsolete bikes in the Lap of Honour, I reviewed Ago's TT record.  Ago raced in 16 TTs over an eight year period and won 10 of them, a 62.5% win to start ratio.  Yes, Ago had superior equipment during this period, but it's still an incredibly win ratio.  In his first year at the IOM, 1965, he DNFed in the Senior TT, which his teammate Hailwood won, and Hailwood DNFed in the Junior TT, while Ago finished 3rd behind Redman and Read.  The next year, Ago started winning.  And while it may have been a relative cruise in some of his 10 wins, he averaged winning by almost 7min. in those 10 races.  He only raced in the Junior and Senior TTs and won both in '68, '69, '70, and '72.  He would probably be the first to say that Hailwood was the best, but Ago certainly ranks up with Woods, Dunlop and McGuiness.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Calabogie 2019

Calabogie is a fabulous race track about an hour west of Ottawa, Ontario Canada.  It's 3.136 miles long and has 20 turns, all of which seem to be blind, decreasing radius and off camber.  Well, thats a bit of an exaggeration as it does have a couple of high speed sweepers, but is probably the most challenging purpose built circuit that I know.  And, there's not a bump on it, which is amazing as I hear that they have winters up there.  The VRRA has been racing there for at least 4 years and this was my 3rd visit there.
I pre-entered my 350 ERTT H-D Sprint and my 250 CRTT H-D Sprint, but the next day, I discovered that the crankcase on the 250 were cracked.  I guess that's why is wasn't very oil tight and vibrated more than I remembered when I won two races with it at NJMP four weeks earlier.  So, I put the CRTT aside and put the motor in my 1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino and took that instead.
How many two wheelers does one need at the races?  Clearly, four. though in the end I never started the TC 200 Suzuki.

I went up Fri. June 26th without having started the Guzzi, so when I got there, I wanted to start it right away before I committed to the entry.  The Dondolino has the oil tank on top of the fuel tank (where else would you put it?????).  I was talking to some friend as I gassed it up and then realize that I was putting the gas in the oil tank, which already had oil in it.  So, I had to drain it all out and put fresh oil in.  Having done that, it fired right up and I did a slow lap around the pits.
Sat. morning after getting the bikes teched, I went out in practice on the Dondo and immediately discovered that I couldn't shift it past 2nd gear.  My incompetent mechanic (me) had indexed the gearbox selector incorrectly and that all I had to do to fix it was take the engine out of the frame and totally disassemble it.  That wasn't going to happen this weekend in the pits, so I put the smallest rear sprocket I had on the rear and rode the 4 lap heat race in 2nd gear, which was still way too short.  The track is long enough and the race was short enough that I didn't get lapped.  It was a bit futile, but people enjoyed seeing and hearing it run and it did run fine and passed the hot tech coming off the track and now I'll be able to see how things are doing when I do take it apart.
I won the P1 350 heat, which was run in the second wave, with P1 200 behind us, and P1 Open in the first wave. finishing 4th overall by passing one of the P1 Open bikes.
This is probably coming out of the last turn, but it could be turn #1.  Bill Murphy photo

I decided there was no point in riding the Dondolino anymore so I changed my Pre 50 entry to P1 500 for Sunday.  The P1 350 final was first and again I won my class and was 4th overall.  All weekend I had a slight, intermittent, and random misfire, which actually seemed more like an ignition cut out.  This seemed a little worse Sun., and after the P1 350 race, I checked over the bike looking for a loose wire or something.  I cleaned the points and checked the gap, but never found a smoking gun.  The P1 500 race was right after lunch and when I went to start the bike, there was not a pop.  I quickly disconnected the kill button and tried again, but still not a pop.  Then, I put in a new sparkplug, grasping at straws, but still nothing,  by this time the race had started without me.  I clearly did something wrong, but it always could be worse.  Better than a rod through the case.
My old friend John Wilson worked on his outfit all weekend and still has more work to do.
Gary Macaw's Alan Taylor Special Velo in a Lyster frame.  Holly Varey raced this, but had trouble with the vibration.
Holly Varey also race Gary Macaw's 250 Ducati 
Vickie Fournier raced this 250 Suzuki with a 4LS front brake that I didn't recognize 
Vickie also race this 250 Can-Am that her husband built.  There seemed to be a high percentage of women racing at Calabogie, always good to see.

The Crussell's equipe with Lorraine's CB175 in the foreground and Daves Z1, Bighorn, and TZ750 behind. 
Roger McHardy's 500 Norton twin ridden by Paul Brubaker
Paul Breubaker's own Kawasaki 550 GPZ with an innovative frame, suspension and fuel tank.
Jamie Bosson's G11 Matchless...
a bike that's been in his family forever and which he's about to restore.

Monday, June 3, 2019


This year the AHRMA New Jersey M/S Pk event moved from it's traditional mid July date to Memorial Day Weekend.  I addition to my ERTT, I brought my CRTT 250 Sprint, which hadn't been on the track in over two years when it had a somewhat abortive return after another over two year layoff when it dropped a valve at Daytona '14.  In the mean time extensive cylinder head work had been done, new piston and valves, and a new exhaust system.  Also new for this event was a Helite inflatable vest.  This is worn over the leathers and is activated by a tether to the bike.  While a little difficult to get on and off and once I forgot to attach the tether when I went out for a race, I was please that it didn't get in the way or seem too hot.
Kurt Lentz stands next to my ERTT 350 with my CRTT 250 in the background.  Kurt and I started roadracing the same weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, 1972 at Bridgehampton, N.Y. and, while he isn't racing now, is still very much involved.
One thing that was not new were the tires on my 250.  If I'm reading the date codes correctly, the rear was manufactured the 35th week of 2008 (3508) and the front from the 47th week of 2004 (4704).  I have records that I installed them April '10 and March, '06, respectively, and a year and a half between manufacture and installation doesn't seem unreasonable.  These are the Dunlop KR 124A and KR 825 that haven't been made for years and which I liked so much.  So, my first practice on the 250 I took very gingerly initially, but gradually upped the pace and the tires seemed fine.  The bike ran alright, but seems to 'hunt' or 'surge' at higher revs.  I remember when we ran the bike on Pete Talabach's dyno, we backed off the ignition timing several times getting more power, then reduced the main jet several times until it made less power.  I hadn't gone back to the bigger jet that made the most power.  So I changed it before the race.  My 350 seemed good from the get-go.
The 250GP class was gridded behind the Sound of Singles 1, the biggest and most modern singles, in the first wave with Novice Historic Production in the second wave.  This seemed like a crazy combination but is a consequence of having too many classes and the difficulty of fitting them all in.  I counted on getting lapped.  I quickly got to the front of the 250s and, sure enough, as I was finishing my 6th lap, I saw the starter getting the last lap flag ready.  Bill Gillis on his 690 KTM powered Kramer came flying past at the end of the straight and sucked me into turn #1.  So, I ended up 1st in class and 4th overall.  I was pleased by the bike performance, though it still surged at the higher RPMs and I suspected the remote float.  It was more rigidly mounted than on my 350 and the motor does vibrate some, so I suspected fuel frothing.  John Melniczuk said that he thought he had some very small rubber mounts at his shop some 10 miles away and he'd bring them to me in the morning.
In the mean time, I checked the float height and raised it a bit.
The 350GP, this year's featured 'Vintage Cup', was gridded behind Vintage Superbike Lightweight in the first wave with Sportsman 350 in the second wave.  I got a pretty good start and braked late into turn #1 and followed Josh Saxe on a 650 BMW twin and John Rickard on his SR500 Yamaha into the turn #3 chicane.  Tim Joyce, on Ed Sensening's 350 Ducati stuffed underneath me in the right hand exit, but then couldn't find a gear and I didn't see him again.  I got by Rickard's SR but Alex McLean got by me on his Rickman Aermacchi.  As I gave chase, several times I noticed Alex reaching down with his left hand and grabbing his left leg.  Turns out, he was out in the immediately previous race on his pre-war Norton and it had oiled his boot which was slipping off the footrest and he was helping his leg back on, but in the process got his glove oily.  This was enough of a distraction for me to get back by him and start to close on Saxe on his BMW.  Neither of us knew that the race had been shortened and were surprise when the checkered flag came out at the end of the 6th lap with me 1st in class and 2nd overall.
The race had been shortened because of a couple of oil spills that required lengthly cleanups and the fact that there was a 'Monster Truck' event happening at the track that evening and AHRMA had to be done by a certain time.  I went out to dinner with a couple of very old friends and missed the show, but when we came back we had to wait a good 20 minutes as they let the spectators out, running the access road one way. 'Monster Trucks' definitely draw a bigger crowd than vintage bikes.
We had heavy thunderstorms over night and there were a few damp patches in the morning, but it got quite hot and the damp disappeared quickly.  The 250 ran better with the raised float, so I decided not to try to install at the track the rubber mounts John brought me.  I just did three practice laps on the 350.
Sunday morning there were puddles from the overnight thunderstorms.  Rich Ronay photo
On the warmup lap for the 250 race, I realized that I had forgotten to attach my inflatable vest tether and, when I got to the grid, I got one of the grid marshals to eventually understand my problem and he plugged me in.  But, in the confusion, I apparently got the gearbox into a false neutral and started the race in 3rd gear.  But, within a couple of laps I got in the lead of the 250GP and then started to close on a SOS 1 bike, which turned out to be a TZ125 Yamaha.  I was surprised that he didn't seem to have much top end speed on me, though he definitely had acceleration on me.  I passed and led him for a while, my bike running better with the raised float.  Again, I saw the starter getting the last lap flag ready as I was completing my 6th lap and Bill Gillis again came flying by to lap me.  Just before the checker, Brian Lowe, also on a Kramer lapped me, and then Dave Rhodes on the TZ125 pipped me right at the line.  Why this bike was being raced in SOS 1 I don't know as it's eligible and did race in SOS3.
For Sunday's 350GP, I didn't get as good a start, and again Tim Joyce stuffed me in the chicane, but then he had a problem with the bike and retired.  I  got into the overall lead in a couple of laps.  I almost tested my new inflatable vest when I got the front wheel skating across the track in turn #6 and in saving it, knocked the bike out of gear, then selected a gear too high.  Both Josh Saxe and Alex Mclean got by.  I first got Josh back, then Alex.  In turn #8 on the penultimate lap, Alex stuck a wheel in on me, but that wasn't going to happen and I backed him down, thinking that the last lap would be intense.  Two corners from the end, Alex's motor cut out as apparently his kill switch failed, and he pushed in.
Running 2nd overall and 1st 350 behind Josh Saxe in the turn #3 chicane.  Rich Ronay photo
So, four starts and four wins with some good dices, a very satisfying weekend.
There were four Vincent singles racing at NJMP

With support from two vincent twins


John Rickard's 500 Norton twin and SR 500 Yamaha.  Rich Ronay photo
Rich Ronay photo

Brian Smith's 798 Ducati.  Rich Ronay photo

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Unsprung Moto Rally

May 4th, 2019 was the third annual Unsprung Moto Rally put on by Nova Cycles in Turners Falls, Ma., but it was my first.  This event is much like a Moto Giro, but allows modern and big bikes.  Like the Moto Giros, each section starts and ends with an agility test, negotiating a short course through cones in a specific time, with points off if one it too slow, too fast, puts a foot down, knocks over a cone or runs out of the course.  And, like the Moto Giros, I'm not very good at the agility test.  Of the four tests at the Unsprung, I 'cleaned' each one, but was way too quick--more than 23 seconds in total.  this isn’t my typical M.O.; usually I’m too slow.
Negotiating the first agility test.  Barbara Holt photo

This was my time, but I think it was supposed to be 25+ seconds. Barbara Holt photo
But, not too slow out on the roads.  And the roads were excellent.  There were lots of dirt roads and, owing to all the rain we’ve been having, some were a bit ‘greasy’, but just about all of them remarkably smooth.  The paved roads ran the gamut from smooth to very rough.  There was limited time on State Highways and the vast majority was on back roads.  The route sheet was very good, though it only had the cumulative mileage, so one that to calculate the mileage  between turns in one’s head. And the arrowing was excellent.  There was only one place in the afternoon where I got a little confused and had to backtrack to confirm that I was still on course.
We did 70 odd miles in the morning and I gassed up roughly mid way.  I decided not to gas up before starting the afternoon section, but after I got going, thought it might be tight getting to the only gas stop at 60ish miles.  So, I started out pretty subdued, but as time wore on, I became confident that I would make it to gas and started riding harder.  But the very fine mist or occasional spot of rain became real rain for a while.  When I stopped for fuel, I put on my gaiters and overmitts and, of course, it didn’t rain again.
After I got fuel (with some to spare), I passed a clump of riders and three of them latched onto me and Robert Ignatowitz on a Sl350 Honda, Nelson Davis on a 200 Bridgestone Hurricane Scrambler and a fellow on a RD 400, jammed at a good pace.  I missed a turn and the three of them got by me and I followed them in.  93 miles and change in the afternoon.  The Unsprung was very well run, with great roads and a great crew.
Part of the line up with Alex (?) sleeping on his scooter
Quite a clean Honda 400F
Jacob Isleib's T-10 Suzuki, probably 1963 or 1964.  When he bought it, it would start and idle, but wouldn't rev up.  He discovered that the carb slides were in backwards
The moped army, at least three of them Peugeots.
Nelson Davis' 200 Bridgestone Hurricane Scrambler which he built out of 3 donor bikes and was shaking down for the USCRA Spring Giro.  It ran fine.
Rick Bell with his 250 Sprint
Michael Shia's Guzzi Eldorado

Monday, April 15, 2019

Carolina Motorsports Park 30,31 March, 2029

This was AHRMA's third road race event of the 2019 season, but I didn't go to the second in New Orleans.  I arrived on Fri., the 29th and got set up, sharing a garage with Kenny Cummings of NYC Norton.
My ERTT  sandwiched between two of NYC Norton's beautiful twins
 First practice, I took it easy scrubbing in a new rear tire, and got up to speed in the second practice.
My first race was the 8th, with Sound of Thunder 3 in the first wave, Formula 500 in the 2nd wave and 500 Premiere and 500GP in the 3rd wave.  I managed to win the 500 Premiere class as I was the only entrant in it, but finished ahead of all the 500GP, three of the F500 and six of the SOT3.
The 350GP was the last race of the day and we were gridded in front of the 350 Sportsman.  Jerry Duke got the hole shot on his 350 Ducati, but messed up his line into turn #1 and I passed him on the exit.  But, we only got two more corners before a red flag was flown.  Jon Hollingsworth had gotten to the pit out late and had to go right to the grid without a warmup lap, so he crashed when he hit turn #1 with cold tires  and brought out the red flag.  We restarted quickly and this time I got a better start and led over all to the checkered flag, and had the fastest lap in the race.
Sun., there was just one round of practice and I thought I'd just do a couple of laps to make sure everything was alright.  But, then it started to rain and I thought I'd skip practice.  Then the rain let up and I did go out and did two very steady laps.
Jerry Duke decided he'd join me, bumping up to 500 Premiere and Brian Laraburre, who had taken delivery of a NYC Norton Seeley G-50 on Fri., had initially thought he wouldn't race it until certain ergonomic changes had been made, but changed his mind and also entered 500 Premiere.  Again, SOT3 was in the first wave, but we started in the second wave with F500 and 500GP.  And, again I finished in front of six of the SOT3 bikes and three of the F500s, as well as the other two 500 Premiere.  Times were a good deal slower because of an oil spill, cooler temperatures and higher winds.
For the last race of the weekend, the 350GP and 350 Sportsman, I put my bike up on the roller starter and grabbed the front brake before hitting the starter pedal and the brake lever came right to the grip. The cable pulled through the barrel at the lever.  I had replaced this cable in June of 2017 after I crashed at Gingerman and damaged it.  Since then, I had done 14 events on this bike, a total of 1427 race miles, and it choose to let go in the paddock just before going out for the race.  It was a bit disappointing, but way better than letting go diving into turn #1.  As I tell everyone who will listen, I'm the luckiest guy in the world.
Easily the coolest bike in the paddock was this 1958 K100 Hercules

A british seat; who would have thunk?
My friend Rick Panettieri  showed up on his Moto Guzzi Norge 8V.  I run into Rick everywhere.  I first met him when he lived in NYC and worked for Piaggio.  Now he lives near Roebling Road and I always see him there and Barber M/S Pk, but I also ran into him at the Terryville, Ct., AMCA meet last year.  A true enthusiast. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

AHRMA Roebling Road 2019

The 2019 vintage road racing season began as is traditional with the first AHRMA round at Roebling Road Raceway in Bloomingdale, Ga., near Savannah.  I arrived Fri., 22 Feb., set up my pit and heat cycled the motor on my ERTT H-D Sprint, but didn't practice.
Darleen Drehmel photo
 I did a lot of deferred maintenance over the winter.  Bill Himmelsbach went through the motor and replaced the rings and wrist pin, got the cylinder liner Nikasil plated, put in a bigger exhaust valve for better seat contact, trued the crank and replaced the gearbox mainshaft which had started to fret.  I sent the brakes to Vintage Brakes and had the shoes relined (which had last been done in 1983).  I replaced the fork seals and swing arm bushings, and had the rear shocks rebuilt.  When I greased the swing arm after replacing the bushings, I discovered a crack and welded it up.  And, my friend Steve D'Angelo repaired and painted the fairing.
Saturday was a bit cooler than Friday's mid 80's, but still very nice, probably mid 70's.  I spent the first practice breaking in the fresh rings and bore, and the new brake linings, and picked up the pace in the 2nd practice and the bike seemed to run very well.  The 350GP was the 2nd race of the day and we were gridded in the 1st wave with 350 Sportsman being the 2nd wave.  Alex McLean got the jump at the start on his Drixton Aemacchi, but then missed the 1st to 2nd shift and I got ahead and led into turn #1 and stayed in 1st into the 7th lap, though I could hear a bike close behind.
Leading the field exiting turn#4.  #122 Alex McLean, #950 Don Hollingsworth, #2 Jonathan Hollingsworth.  Etech Photo
 Alex came around me exiting turn #4 on the 7th lap and I followed him onto the front straight and drafted by him  fairly easily after taking the white flag starting the last lap.  I was a bit surprised how easily I motored by him, as I think of his bike as very fast, and wonder if he had rolled off a bit in some kind of last lap strategy.  But, we came upon some backmarkers approaching turn #5 and I was able to get by, but they may have balked Alex and I won the race by 0.68 seconds.  We talked after the race and Alex said that he hadn't rolled off at all and in fact had tried to draft by me in earlier laps but, when he pulled out of the draft, hadn't been able to pass.
At Saturday's award ceremony.  Ron Melton photo
I bumped up to 500 Premiere which was gridded behind Formula 500 and 500GP in the 2nd wave with Sound of Thunder 3 in the first wave.  I got a good start and finished ahead of all of the 500GP bikes, 5 of the 8 F-500 bikes that started and 4 of the SOT3 bikes.  My fastest lap was a little slower than in 350GP as my rear tire was getting pretty worn and I wanted to save some for Sun.
Sun., it was decided to do just one round of practice and have a few races before lunch (ostensibly because of a threat of weather), which was fine by me as I was only going to do a few laps to conserve my tires.
In the 350GP, I beat Alex off the line and led the first lap.  On the second lap, Alex came by in a corner and I followed him onto the straight where, like Sat. I motored by.  But, Alex went really deep in turn #1 and slowly pulled away.
Alex McLean on a Drixton Aermacchi leads through turn #5.  Etech Photo
 I finished more than five and a half seconds behind him in a race shortened to 6 laps, he going faster than he had Sat., and me going slower.
We did get some rain during lunch and 'quiet time', but hardly the severe thunderstorms that were predicted.  The sun came out and the wind picked up and the track largely dried quickly.  There was a huge delay cleaning up an oil spill and all the remaining races remained 6 laps.
The SOT 3/F-500/500GP/500 Premiere finally got under way, but there were only 20 starters overall as  opposed to the 26 on Sat., as many people left because of the threat of rain or just fed up waiting out the long cleanup delay.  By now, my rear tire was really shagged and the track was slower because there were the odd damp patches, esp. where the cleanup had taken place.  again I got ahead of most of the F-500 bikes and a couple of the SOT3 bikes.  Coming out of the last corner, Alex McLean passed me on his 500 Norton Manx and out dragged me to the finish line, beating me by less the 0.2 sec.  So, I beat Alex (he on two different bikes) twice Sat., and he beat me twice Sun.
Getting the word from Art Kowitz.  Darleen Drehmel

Tim 'Merciless' Mings gets a autograph so he can hawk it on eBay.  Darleen Drehmel photo