Thursday, April 2, 2015

NOLA

This past weekend, I flew to New Orleans to race in the AHRMA event at NOLA.  The plan was to race the CT-1 Yamaha built and prepared by Dennis Latimer.  I raced this bike at Barber last year and it was a little rocket.  Dennis had sent the crankshaft of this and it's near identical sister bike to a specialist in Arizona to be balanced and never got them back before he event.
The sister bike to the CT-1 I rode that Dennis brought along for a spare without an engine
But he was able to borrow the crankshaft from Lanny Henderson's similar bike as Lanny has decided to retire from racing.
When we got to the track Friday, Dennis told me the bike had the same gearing as at Barber and I thought that would be way too low for the longer and quicker NOLA circuit.  So, I took a survey of a number of racers who had raced their same bike at both circuits and the consensus was the NOLA gearing was about 107% of Barber gearing.  This meant changing from a 16 to a 17 tooth front sprocket.
I signed up for the afternoon practice.  We had some problems getting the bike started for our first session and I got out on the track late. I took a lap to refresh my memory of where the circuit went and started to wick it up on the next lap when I saw had the red flag at turn #3.  The session over, we learned very little.
We made sure we were ready for the last session and I got in five good laps.  I had some trouble making the gap between the gears and wasn't reaching redline at the end of the straight into turn #1.  I got a good plug chop which indicated that we could go one leaner on the main jet and we went to a rear sprocket with one tooth more.  But, Dennis' crew, which included Bart Winters, son of the legendary Leroy and nephew of Robert Winters, found a crack in the frame.  Dennis didn't think it was that significant and didn't want to do a bodge repair that would complicate a proper repair back at the shop.  But, when we found a second crack in one of the motor mount tabs, the decision was made to take the bike to Framecrafters and Randy Illg TIG welded the cracks after we prepped the joints.  So, we were ready for Saturday morning practice.
With the shorter gearing and leaner jetting, the bike started to go really well.  But, I realized that things really started to happen between 11 & 12,000 rpm.  I asked Dennis if the crank could live with this and he said yes, so I told him to put yet another tooth on the rear sprocket, bringing the overall ratio to almost where we started.
In the second (and last) practice the bike was really flying.  It's extremely fast for 175cc, handles superbly and has good brakes.  If it had a closer ratio gearbox, it would be just about ideal.  On the last lap of the last practice, approaching turn #3, I down shifted then downshifted again and the rear wheel locked.  The back end wagged back and forth a couple of times before I could get the clutch in, but luckily I was going in a straight line and not leaned over..  
Dennis pulled the head when we got it back to the pits and the bore looked fine.  When he lifted the cylinder, we could see that the left flywheel was blued and scored.  Bart could wiggle the left end of the crankshaft up and down about an inch while the flywheel didn't move at all.  Evidently, the shaft had broken off the flywheel.  The bike was done for the weekend.
The dead CT-1 in the trailer after the crank broke
When the Hollingsworth H-D crew heard about this, they asked me to race their 350 Sprint in the 350 GP race.  Don Hollingsworth had been scheduled to ride it in this race, but he said he could use his short stroke 250 instead.
The Hollingsworth Sprint line up with the 350 (866) in the foreground
A '64 long stroke, wet clutch CRTT that Dick Bought from Jon Shultz
I was able to change my entry from 200GP to 350GP but, with practice over, my only chance to familiarize myself with the bike would be on a 'scrub' lap on the warm up lap of the first race, which went fine.  Don rode the short stroke 250 in race two which included 250 GP, but it broke.  Older brother Albert, nephew Dave, and Jerry Masters got it up on the bench and found that a valve spring retainer had failed.  The valve hit the piston and was bent, but there was no other damage, so Al went to work pulling the head and replacing the valve and retainer.
Don took the 250 long stroke wet clutch sprint out in race five, which included the 200GP, for which it was eligible and was having a good dice with his old sparing partner, Denny Poneleit, when Don's Sprint stopped with broken points.  Al just finished getting the 250 short stroke together as they were making the last calls for race six, which included the 350 GP.  Don was late getting back on the crash truck and missed the warmup lap and went directly to his grid, but stalled the bike turning it around and had to push start it on the grid.  Meanwhile, my warmup lap went smoothly and I lined up in pole position for 350GP, being Class champion, behind the 500 Premiere and 500GP grid.  I got a fair start, but Jack Parker and Paul Germain, both on quick DT-1 Yamahas, shot ahead.  At first I thought there would be no catching them as they engaged in a great dice but, as I became comfortable with the bike, I saw that they weren't pulling away.  The Sprint was excellent with a broad power band, superb handling and only OK brakes. After a few laps, I saw that Jack and Paul were coming back towards me.  On the 6th of 8 laps, I out braked Paul into turn #1, then was able to ride around the out side of Jack in turn #6.  So, I led the class taking the white flag signifying the last lap and carried that lead to the checkered flag.  Paul apparently passed Jack on lap seven and took the white flag first, then Jack got back ahead and took the checker first.  But, Paul was awarded 2nd place because a dog had gotten loose and ran down towards turn #1 and a red flag was thrown after some, but not all, had received the checker and therefore they reverted the scoring to the previous lap.  This also effected the 500 Premiere results with Kenny Cummings taking the checker first but Ron Melton given the win as he was leading at the white flag.
Dick Hollingsworth, Don's twin brother, took the 350 out for the Formula 250 race and it dropped a valve and made a right mess.  As talented and well prepared as Al is, there was no fixing this bike this weekend.
The intake valve head is tommyhawked into the piston with the exh. valve head in the foreground
The int. valve head peeking through the underside of the piston
 Dick was blaming himself and there didn't seem to be anyway we could convince him that it wasn't his fault, he just happened to be on it when it was time.  Dick declared that he was never, ever racing again, but we've heard that before.
A disgusted Dick Hollingsworth in front of the blown up 350 Sprint
In a fit of irrational exuberance over my win in the 350GP, the Hollingsworth clan decided that I should race the 250 short stroke in Sunday's 350GP and, in fact, since the 250 GP race was first, I should race that, too.   I had raced this bike a couple of times notably at Roebling Road last year where I had a great dice with Paul Germain and managed to beat him by 0.043 sec.  This is the same bike that Don used to win the 1968 Daytona Novice race at record speed, the last time a four stroke won the Novice race.  In Sunday's first practice, I did a few laps, then it made a bad noise and stopped.  Al quickly determined that it was just the ball on the end of the aluminum pushrod that had broken off, an odd failure that none of us had seen before, perhaps somehow related to the retainer failure the day before.  It was just a matter of putting a new pushrod in and we were in business again and I went out for the second practice.  It's fast but, for some reason, it chatters like crazy and it seems that the only way to stop that is to get on the gas.  Many people were talking about how much bumpier the NOLA track has become, but I hadn't really felt it on the CT-1 and the 350 Sprint.  However, when I was stopped out an near turn #6 with the broken pushrod, I could see all the bike bouncing through a big dip there.
The 250 short stroke CRTT with which Don won the '68 Daytona Novice race
We started the 250GP race much like Saturday's 350GP, with Jack Parker and Paul Germain shooting out in front and me slotting into third.  Initially they didn't pull the big margin on me as they had Sat., and I thought that this was doable.  As we approached turn #6, the bike started to chatter badly and I opened the throttle to settle it down.  But, perhaps I did this just as the bike was unweighting from the dip there and the back end snapped sideways.  I went down on the low side but, when I hit the dirt, I tumbled and landed on my head.  I was not anxious to get up and took my time.  I was surprised that the race wasn't red flagged as I was in an impact zone, so when the last bike passed I crossed the track to the inside of the corner.  Nothing broken, but my upper back/neck are still sore.  So, the weekend was a classic case of Hero to Zero.  That's racing.
The bike wasn't too bad, mainly fairing and windscreen, with no dirt in the carb.


 CRTT after.  The tach an battery got ripped off.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Amelia Island Concours

In a weak moment, I agreed to represent Team Obsolete at the Amelia Island Concours.  T/O had sent three bikes down to Florida a couple of weeks before: two Dick Mann Matchless G-50s and the Cal Rayborn H-D XRTT 750.
Team Obsolete's two Dick Mann G-50s and the Cal Rayborn XRTT 750
 The event is a car event, but they've added bikes now for a few years.  The theme was Daytona bikes, the event happening the same weekend as the Daytona 200.  The Barber Museum brought five Daytona 200 winning bikes: the KR 750 H-D that Rodger Reiman won the first 200 held at the the speedway in 1961;
 the TZ 350 Yamaha that Jarno Saarinen won the 1973 race;
the TZ 750 that took Dale Singleton to the win in 1981;
the OWO1 750 Yamaha that Dave Sadowski used to win in 1990; and the Ducati 848 that took Jason Disalvo to victory in 2011.  Barbers also brought a Britten.
Gordon McCall had three bikes in the show.  The first was one of two Formula 750 BMWs campaigned by Butler & Smith, then the BMW importer, in 1972.  He had just acquired this Bill Peretti, owner of the Daytona Beach BMW dealership, where it had been on display for some time.
 Gordon had a Rickman BSA A-50 that had belonged to a friend of his who was born missing his right hand.  He built this bike with controls and throttle on the left clip-on and raced it.  Gordon's third bike was an early TZ 700 Yamaha that had been raced in the Daytona 200 twice, being constantly updated (full 750, exhaust pipes, mono shock, etc.)Somer Hooker had Vincent Black Shadow that had been raced extensively by Ed LaBelle.
Jim Dillard had a 1974 Ducati 750 SS, restored by Rich Lambrechts, that had been raced by my late friend Ian Gunn, who's Moto Guzzi Dondolino I now own.
Dillard also had the last surviving, of four, 1954 works DOHC 250 Parillas, apparently inspired by the Norton Manx, restored by Jim Dallarosa   This bike had done a couple of Milano-Tartano long distance races and so had been built with a generator for lighting and battery/coil ignition.  Later the bike was brought to the States and competed in Sportsman races at Daytona.

The Team Obsolete bikes included the two Matchless G-50s that Dick Mann had raced, with one of which he won the 1962 Laconia national and finished 2nd in the Daytona 200.  This bike is featured in the April, 2015 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine.  The other G-50 was recently acquired from Fred Mork and is a bike that he campaigned in AHRMA vintage racing.  The third T/O bike is the H-D XR750 roadracer raced by Cal Rayborn in it's final form, with mag wheels and disc brakes.  This bike won the Indianapolis and Laguna Seca Nationals in 1972.
In the foreground, the Matchless G-50 which Dick Mann used to finish 2nd (by 10') at Daytona and 1st at Laconia in 1962
I thought the Parilla, in addition to being very handsome, was notable for being the only strictly works bike the there, not based on any production.
The crankcase breather on the 1954 DOHC 250 Parilla
 I was vey taken with the Jarno Saarinen TZ 350 Yamaha.  I saw him win at Daytona in 1973 when I was there to compete in my first AMA Novice professional race and I remember being impressed with his red boots. Recently, I saw a photo of Jarno at Daytona and the boots weren't red at all, but blue.  So much for ancient memories. He was dead two months later, killed with Renzo Pasolini in a totally avoidable accident at Monza.  While several of the bikes in the show were unrestored, this bike hadn't been used since he won the 200 42 years ago; a true time capsule.
This bike hasn't been used since it won the 1973 Daytona 200
 Among the other unrestored bikes was he Butler & Smith F-750 BMW.  ThIs had a special works frame and was built by Udo Geitl and Todd Schuster towards the end of 1971.  Udo shortened the cylinders 10mm (2 fins) and used 10mm shorter conrods to gain ground clearance.  It use a Harley XRTT long course fairing and a Vesco Yamaha seat, 250mm Fontana front brake and Ceriani forks.  Apparently, even this special works frame proved inadequate when Udo got nearly 100hp out of the motor and Rob North was commissioned to build a couple of frames.  Theses later bikes used mag wheels and disc brakes.  The BMW and the H-D XRTT represent the last of the four stroke twins competing in F-750 racing.
The rear brake caliper on the Butler & Smith F-750 BMW, something I can't identify
T/O's Larry Au checking out the Butler & Smith F-750 BMW
The Parilla, Vincent , 750 SS Ducati, Singleton TZ 750 , and Sadowski OWO1 Yamaha, and Britten were all started for the judging and prize giving.
Check out the extra sparkplugs on Somer Hooker's Vincent Black Shadow
Judging for the bikes was Dale Walksler, owner of the Wheels through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, N.C., Danny Sullivan, the 1985 Indy 500 winner and avid motorcyclist, and Vicky Smith a Ducatista and hard working organizer.  Dale had a Crocker motorcycle there which he is raffling off.
This Crocker is being raffled off.  Check out the Wheels of Time Museum website for details


There were a couple of other two wheeler among the some 290 cars on display including an early BSA Goldstar in the back of a Cadilac pickup.
While I'm obsessed with motorcycles, there were some cars that captured my attention.  The Isetta isn't too far removed from a bike, using a BMW motorcycle motor.

The dashboard of the Isetta
A replica of Buckmaster Fuller's Dymaxion




A Rabbit scooter someone was using to get around the grounds
A board track display

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Roebling Road, 21-22 Feb., 2015



When I had my right ankle replaced right after the last race of the 2014 season, I didn't know if I'd be fit to race in the first race or two of the 2015 season.  But, the surgery and rehab went really well and I had been riding on the street with no problem since Christmas time, so I decided to race at AHRMA Roebling Road, 21-22 Feb.  The only problem was that all of my race bikes were apart and in the middle of major motor work.
But, my friend Aleksey Kravchuk had just finished building a new race bike and he said that I could help him shake it down and race a bump up class.
Aleksey Kravchuk's F-250 CB 350 Honda
 The bike is a Formula 250 CB350 Honda.  Alex  built the frame from scratch and equipped it with Ceriani road race forks, a replica 210mm Fontana  four leading shoe front brake and 200mm twin leading shoe rear, Frank Giannini built the motor and Mat Tanner supplied the body work.  
a 210mm Fontana 4LS front brake
A Frank Giannini built motor

We loaded the bike in my van right after it ran for the first time at his shop and took off the next morning for Roebling.
Alex is a superb fabricator

We were prepared to camp, but decided it would be prudent to accept my friend Harriet's invitation to sleep on the floor of her house in the historic district of Savannah, as the forecast was for a low of 18 degrees.  Alex knew he had an oil leak, so Fri. morning we stopped at Action Rubber and Gasket on the way to the track and got an 'O'ring.  After setting up our pit and installing the 'O'ring we fired up the bike and found we still had an oil leak.  Further investigation revealed that it was a different 'O'ring that was at fault, so we drove back into Savannah and, after failing to find an 'O'ring at Graingers or a bearing house, ended up back a Action, who had the right part.  Back to the track and 'O'ring installed , this time the oil leak was cured.  We did some incidental drilling and safety wiring but decided it was too late and too cold to justify paying for Fri. practice.  We'd just be ready to go first thing Sat.
In the mean time, Gregg Bonelli offered me his Yamaha F-250 bike for a bump up class.
Gregg Bonelli's F-250 Yamaha DS7
While Sat. morning wasn't as cold as Fri. morning, it was still in the 30's, and Aleksey's Honda didn't want to run.  It would fire if he choked it like crazy while I worked the throttle on the rollers, but it would die pretty much as soon as he took his hand away.  We thought there might be a problem with the float level or the kill switch and we spent time investigating those possibilities, missing the first round of practice.  While Alex was taking the carbs apart, I took Gregg's hot-rodded DS7 Yamaha 250 out for practice and it went alright, though the rear brake and right clip-on needed adjustment.
Then Alex realized the problem.  He had put race gas in the bike back in Brooklyn, but when we loaded the van, he grabbed the wrong fuel jug, one filled with methanol for another project.  Fri. we had run the bike on the race gas in the tank, but it was very low so, Sat. morning Alex filled it with methanol, unbeknownst to him.  With gasoline jets in the carbs, the methanol was way too lean for the motor to run.  He drained the fuel and put in race gas, and the bike started right up.  By this time, there was just my practice left and, as much as I wanted Alex to ride the bike first, I went out on it.  I took it quite gingerly as it was a total unknown, but it seemed like it was going to be good.  The wheels were out of balance, but it steered well, the close ratio Nova gearbox shifted great, and the Fontana brakes were right there.  Just finishing the 3rd lap. the bike lost power and I clutched it and pulled off with smoke pouring out of the right exhust pipe.  Removing the sparkplug revealed a hole in the top of the piston big enough to see the wrist pin and no sign of the exhaust valve when we rotated the motor over.  Alex was naturally devastated and I felt really bad for him and wondered if I had done something wrong.  Later disassembly found no oil going to the top end and the cam and rockers were completely cooked.  It hasn't yet been detrimined why, but at least I didn't feel guilty.
So, with that bike dead it was on to Gregg's Yamaha.  Gregg was to ride it in F-250 and me in F-500, immediately following.  Gregg got a good start but pulled into the pit lane at the end of the 2nd lap with a fuel leak.  We had a frantic scramble determining where the fuel was coming from (a fuel line had split), then trying to get at it and shorten or replace it.  This took long enough for me to miss the warm-up lap, but I was able to go directly to the grid.    I got a good start with a moderate little wheelie and pretty quickly slotted into 2nd in class behind Mark Morrow on his RD 400 based Yamaha.
Stalking Ricky Pearson's Yamaha
At the end of the 2nd lap, he lost power and pulled off--apparently one of his carbs had fallen off, and now I was leading the class.  But, the right clip-on kept moving back towards the tank and I couldn't seem to push it forward down the straight.  I tried to carry on as long as I could, but it finally got too close to the tank and I pitted on the 3rd or 4th lap.  After much screaming and pointing I finally got Eric Cook to pull the clip-on well forward away from the tank and I took off again, a lap down.   The motor started loosing it's edge and the clip-on started moving back again.  I finished, but a lap down and the bike was pretty dead.  When I had asked Gregg to adjust the handle bar, he had loosened the pinch bolts on the yokes and rotated the fork tube, not realizing the clip-on wasn't tight on the fork tube.  It hadn't moved for him, but I guess I was pulling on it harder.  Only Harry Vanderlinder (SOS 2 MZ Skorpion), John Rickard (Vint. S/B LW Yamaha SR500) and presumable Mark Morrow (no times listed for him) had done a faster lap than me in the race, so the bike has real potential, but it was a moot point as the top end was now wasted.
Remarkably, after two bikes had died under me, someone offered me a ride for Sun.  Larry Morris, a near neighbor on Long Island, N.Y., had a Triumph Daytona 500 that he was riding in 500 Sportsman and he offered it to me to ride 750 Sportsman.

 This was a bike built by Tim Joyce, in my opinion the fastest vintage rider in North America.  It's unique in that it has a big twin 5 speed gearbox welded onto the crankcases at 90 degrees to the normal orientation.

 I was quite curious to ride it as I had seen Tim go extremely fast on it.  Larry had had some clutch slip on Sat. and thought the problem was just that the clutch springs weren't reefed down hard enough, and he said he would jump on that first thing Sun. morning.
When I went out in the first round of practice Sun., I found that the bike handled really well, had good brakes (the conical Bsump twin leading shoe with extended arms) and was remarkablly smooth for a Triumph twin.
custom billet yokes
extended brake arms make all the difference on these brakes

 And, the clutch was still slipping.  Also, when I came in, we found one of the clutch cover bolts was missing.  Larry said he had some more manly clutch springs he would put in and I went  looking for a replacement bolt.  It was a very long 1/4" Whitworth allen head cap screw and I couldn't find one anywhere.  So, we just put some spooge in the hole and I just got one lap in the 2nd round of practice.  It seemed like the clutch was no longer slipping, but the cover was leaking from the missing bolt.  Larry went out during lunch break to find some hardware, but Home Depot. Lowes, and Auto Zone didn't have anything like that.  But Alex, who was very much involved in wrenching on the bike, told Larry to get some 14"-20 threaded rod.  Alex threaded that into the case, put some flat washers over the counter bored holes and tightened up some lock nuts, then covered the whole mess in Yamabond.  I took the bike out for a scrub lap in one of the earlier races and it was good; the clutch didn't slip and the cover didn't leak.
Aleksey's very effective bodge on the primary cover

Larry decided that he wouldn't race the 500 Sportsman, which immediately preceded the 750 Sportsman race so as to not compromise my chances, despite my urging him to ride.  Race 7 was Sound of Thunder 3, Sportsman 750, Sound of Singles 3, eSuperSport (electric bikes), and F-750, with just four of us in 750 Sportsman: the 750 BMWs of Rich Heritage and Dan May, and the XS 750 Yamaha of Mark Nadelkov.  It was a single wave start and I got into 2nd in class soon.  I started to close on Rich Heritage and around the 5th lap got right on his tail out of the last corner onto the straight and got the perfect draft which I broke out of just before braking for turn #1 and slipped by.  I led that lap until we got back on the straight and Rich was able to motor by me.  This seemed to have pumped him up and he stepped it up.  I accidently knocked it up a gear and by the time I got it right, Rich and gapped me and that's the way we finished, Rich 4th overall behind two SV650's and a Ducati twin and me 5th OA ahead of Dave Rhinehart on a Triumph Thruxton, despite him having a faster best lap.
My new ankle worked great, the weather got good and warm, and I had a fun ride on a very nice bike.  A good start to the season.  Many thanks to Aleksey, Gregg and Larry.