Sunday, July 24, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend

Saturday, I rode my '59 Horex Resident from my Brother's house in Haddam, Ct., to the New England Motorcycle Museum in Rockville, Ct., about a 42 mile ride.  While the Museum is not officially opened yet, they had several bikes on display including a beautiful '49 Nimbus, a XLCR H-D, and several Ossas.  The Museum is an impressive project.  Ken Kaplan, its owner, has invested millions into restoring an abandon textile mill, parts of which date back to 1812.  Ken had hoped to have the official opening this weekend, but that's had to have been delayed.  Apparently, the State fire marshall has over ruled the local fire marshall, and more upgrades and mods have to be made.
On my way back to Haddam, I passed by Steve Rossi's home in East Haddam, and saw him in his driveway. So, I did a U-turn and pulled in and we chatted for a while.  When I went to leave, the Horex didn't want to start.  After a bunch of tries, where it would fire but not run, Steve suggested that I push it down the hill on his road.  He gave me a push and I got well down the hill building up speed when I finally dropped the clutch and, though turning over rapidly, it still didn't want to run.  then I noticed that there was about 1.5" of inner throttle cable pulled out of the outer.  Either the slide was hung up in the bore or the cable had broken at the slide end.  I parked the bike on it's center stand ( it has no side stand) and started walking back to Steve's house.  He had already figured out that I had a problem and was driving his pickup towards me.  When we got back to the bike, we found that it had fallen over.  We righted the bike and just managed to get in the back of the truck with his short ramp.  Steve drove me the 6 miles back to my brother's.  When we got it unloaded, we found that not only had the end pulled off the throttle cable (it was only crimped, not soldered), but the right exhaust pipe had broken when it fell over.

In the mean time, our friend Gordon Pulis had arrived on his '71 CL 175 Honda.  He and I set to soldering the end back on the cable.  Miraculously, the end was sitting in the bottom of the carb and had not been sucked into the cylinder when the engine was spinning over rapidly down the hill.  Now that I think about it, maybe it's not so miraculous because the slide was totally shut, so the cable end couldn't get by.  That fixed, we attacked the exhaust pipe.  The head pipes on the bike are in really rough shape and the right one had a section of EMT electrical conduit welded into it and it broke right next to the weld.  This pre-existing repair had caused the pipe to flare out too far outboard, so the break in the pipe offered an opportunity to tuck it in more.  I oxy-acetylene welded the break in situ, then removed the pipe and finished it up with MIG.  It wasn't elegant as I burnt through the very thin pipe many times but, with a bunch of grinding, was serviceable.

Gordon and I put everything back together, switched bikes, and went fo a 35 or so mile test ride.  Gordon pointed out that the motor's refusal to idle down after it got warm was perhaps just due to a lack of free play in the throttle cable and not an air leak or ignition advance problem.  But, investigating that would have to wait as Sunday was the Steve Rossi Tiddler Tour.
Steve is active in both the Italian Motorcycle Oners Club and the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club, so I rolled out my '53 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport for the TT.  Rich Hosley brought his Ossa Wildfire to Doug and Amy's house and, after he took the Horex for a quick ride, we all left for Steve's house across the Connecticut River, Doug on his '65 Benelli 260 and Amy driving her Subaru with a trailer running sweep.  
Rich Hosley heading out on his Ossa Wildfire.  Amy Roper photo
It was another gorgeous day and there was a big turnout, although there seems to be some displacement inflation in what people consider appropriate at a Tiddler event.  There were no Brit bikes this time, but plenty of Italian, Japanese, German and Spanish bikes.  In addition to my brother's and my bikes, there were at least three Sprints and three Ducati singles.

My '53 Airone Sport. Amy Roper photo
There were two DT 250 Yamaha singles, an XT 350, and a CS5 Yamaha 200 twin. Honda was represented by a CL 90, a CB 125 single, a 125 twin, an XL 175, and a CA 77 Honda Dream.  There were three R-27 BMWs and a MZ 125 from Germany. And a Bultaco Alpina and Metrala in addition to Rich's Ossa from Spain.
Scott Rikert kicking Bill Burke's Metralla. Amy Roper photo
I finally bump started the 'taco and it ran fine for Bill the rest of the day.  Amy Roper photo
In the morning, we headed west and crossed the Connecticut River on the Chester ferry.  It arrived on the Hadlyme side just after I arrive so I nearly had to wait.  I was a bit outraged by the $6 fee for motorcycles as cars are $6 and bicycles are $2.  There's no justice.  Though last away after disembarking on the Chester, I missed the first turn and, even though I don't see how it could be shorter, I ended up ahead of the others on the ferry with me and was one of the first to stop for lunch in Durham.  Steve Rossi had some trouble getting his newly acquired 250 Ducati Monza started, but with a run and bump we got him going.  After Rich Hosley gassed up his Ossa Wildfire, he discovered he had a gas leak and put the bike on Amy's trailer.  But, it turned out the leak was high in the tank tunnel and, after it leaked down below, it stopped, so he pulled the bike off the trailer and rode it into the finish.  That was the only business Amy and Lynn had in the sweep vehicle. 
Amy Roper photo
After a good smooze at Steve's house, many retired to Amy & Doug's where the party continued into the evening.  Once again, great roads on a beautiful day with good turnout of bikes and riders.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Track count

I'm way behind on the blog and I'll probably have to do a condensed synopsis of the first half of the summer.  One of the reason that I'm behind is that I got involved in chronicling my track count. 
At Gingerman, Swiss Neiderberger celebrated reaching a goal that he had set for himself: racing at 50 racetracks.  I don't mean to rain on Swiss' parade, but it got me to wondering how many race tracks I'd ridden.  Here's the list so far, in pretty chronological order. Some of the tracks I didn't actually race on, just paraded, and I'm considering different versions of a venue separate tracks.

Bridgehampton, N.Y., '72
Loudon, N.H.
   Bryar, '72
   Noduol (Bryar 'backwards') '72,'73?
   NHIS, '90
Summit Point, W. Va., '72
Pocono, Pa., '72, '73?
Virginia International Raceway
   Full circuit, '72, '73?
   North circuit, '01
   South circuit, '09
West Palm Beach, '73
Daytona
   3.81 mi.,'73
   1.6 mi. Infield, '81
   1.74 mi. Infield,'85
   1.76 mi. Infield, '87
   3.56 mi.,'90
   2.85 mi.,'02
   3.51 mi., '09
Dade City, Fl., '73
Dallas, Tx., '73
Charlotte, N.C., '73
Gainesville, Fl., '74
Road Atlanta, Ga., 
   2.54 mi., '74
   With modified 'gravity cavity, '98
   With turn #3 chicane, '03
   With modified turn #12, '09
Lakeland, Fl., '75
Thompson, Ct.
   'Version 3', '76
   1.7 mi., '16
Ontario Motor Speedway, '79
Sears Point
   original, '79
   Current, '13
Road America, Wl.
   Original, '80
   Current, '08?
Lime Rock Park, Ct., '80
Talladega Super Speedway, Al.,'81
Laguna Seca, Ca.
   Original, '82
   GP., '97
Shannonville, Ont., Canada
   Nelson, '82
   Pro, '99?
Roebling Road, Ga., '83
Mid-Ohio, '83
Blackhawk Farms, Illinois, '86
Watkins Glen, N.Y., '86.
Mosport, Ontario, Canada, '88
Heartland Park, Topeka, Ks.,'89
Talladega Grand Prix, Al.
   Original, '91
   Current, '13
Grattan, Mi., '91
Rockingham, N.C., '92
Las Vegas, Nv., '93
Seattle Intl. Raceway, Kent, WA., '93
Putnam Park, In., '94
Gateway Park, E. St.Louis, Il., '94
Willow Springs, Ca., "96
Atlantic M/S Park, Shubenacadie, N.S., Can., '96
Deland, Fl., '97
Stafford Springs, Ct., '97
Gunstock, Belnap, N.H., '99
Carolina M/S Park, S.C., '99
Cayuga, Ont., Canada, '01
Frontierland, Loudon, N.H., '01
North Florida M/S Park, '02
BeaveRun, Pa., '03
Barber M/S Pk., '03
Sandia, N.M., '04
No Problem Raceway, La., '04
Autodromo St. Eustache, Quebec, Can., '04
Thunderhill, Ca., '04
Gingerman, Mi.
   Original, '05
   Current, '16
Pueblo, Co., '05
Miller M/S Pk., Ut., '06
Portland International Raceway, Or., '10
Motorsport Ranch, Tx., '11
NOLA, La., '13
The Ridge, WA., '13
NJMP, N. J.
   Thunderbolt, '13
   Lightning, '14

You'll notice that the above is only circuits in North America, so now I'll add public road races in North America:
Steamboat Springs, Co.,'84
La Carrerra, Baja, Mx., '86
Delmar, Ca., '96
Maybe Deland, Gunstock, & Frontierland should be in this category.

Now we go to overseas circuits
Caldwell Park, Eng.
   Club, '75
   Full, '86
Darley Moor, Eng.,'75
Donnington Park, Eng.,
   National, '81
   GP, '86
Brands Hatch, Eng.,
   G.P., '82
   Indy, '89
Oulton Park, Eng., '81
Mallory Park, Eng.
   Original, '82
   With 'bus stop', '89
Adelaide International Raceway, S.A., Aus., '85
Mallala M/S Park, S.A., Aus., '85
Winton, Vic., Aus., '85
Circuit Paul Ricard, Fr., '86
Autodromo Riccardo Paletti, It., '86
Snetterton, Eng., '87
Assen, Nl., 
   Longer, '87
   Shorter, '99
Misano, It., '87
Knockhill, Scotland, '87
Pukekoe, N.Z., '90
Ruapuna, N.Z., '90
Autrodromo de Linas-Montlhery, Fr., '96
Nurburgring, Ger., '96
Eastern Creek, N.S.W., Aus., '98
Artic Circle Raceway, Norway, '98
Tsukuba, Jpn., '02
Jurby, I.O.M., '13
Phillip Island, Vic., Aus., '14

Finally, the overseas public road courses:
Mountain course, I.O.M., '82
Villa Real, Portugal, '84
Dundrod, N.I., '84
Brno, Czechoslovakia, '84
Oliver's Mount, Eng., '95

Total:115

I thought I might have add one more this weekend at the USCRA event at the new circuit at Canaan, N.H., but I didn't feel well.  I may hit 115 at the VRRA even at Calaboogie, in Ontario, near Ottawa in Sept.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Thompson, Ct.

Last Sunday, Team Obsolete participated in a "Vintage " track day at Thompson Speedway in the extreme northeast of Connecticut.  The track has a long history starting in the 1940's, based around a 5/8th mile oval.  The 1.7 mile road course uses at least half of the oval. I had last raced at Thompson in 1978 and shortly after that there was a fatality when a stock car lost control and hit the gap in the oval where the road course pealed off.  After that, the road course (which was in rough shape with orange cones in the potholes down the back straight) was abandoned.  A few years ago, the road course was revived, totally repaved, and lengthened and altered slightly.  There hasn't been any racing on the revived course, perhaps because of a lack of runoff, but several track days.  This one was in conjunction with a swap meet and bike show, sponsored by Indian.
The fans take photos of the Team Obsolete bikes.  Ken Richardson photo

Team Obsolete brought three bikes: an Arter Matchless, a works BSA 750 triple, and a works 350 Benelli four.  This Arter Matchless G-50 is know as 'Wagon Wheels' as it is perhaps the first bike to be raced with cast magnesium wheels.  It's the bike with which Peter Williams finished 2nd three times in the Senior TT at the Isle of Man, to Ago's MV in '70 & '71 and Jack Finlay's 500 Suzuki in '73.  In '73, Williams did a lap of 102.7 mph which, I believe, was the fastest lap by a single cylinder bike until 1989 when Robert Dunlop won the Ultra Lightweight TT on a RS 125 Honda and probably the fastest lap by a four stroke single until Bob Heath won the Senior Classic Manx GP in 1991 at a race average of 102.62mph.  In 1989, I did the fastest lap of the Senior Classic MGP at 102.52mph, but the course was much quicker then than in '73 with places like Quarry Bends straightened, widened, and smoothed.  Tires were better and I'm sure that I had more power  in the Team Obsolete G-50 than Peter had in his relatively standard motor.  I'm in awe of his '73 lap.  Team Obsolete has been invited back to the IOM for the fourth consecutive year to participate in the Jurby Festival and Lap of Honour and Wagon Wheels is the bike we'll be taking this year.
on the Arter Matchless 'Wagon Wheels" with T/O mechanic Josh Mackenzie.  Ken Richardson photo

The BSA A75R is the bike that Dick Mann road raced in 1971.  This Is a bike that I've raced many times over the years and over the years we modified it to keep it a competitive vintage racer.  But, it was last raced in 2002 (with a different motor) and it was decided to return it to as close as we could make it to the way it was when Dick raced it in '71.  This was completed recently and Thompson was a good opportunity to see if it was right.
The BSA A75R in the middle in front of it's owner Rob Iannucci.  

Likewise, the 350 Benelli four was rebuilt recently and needed to be tested.  This is a works Grand Prix racer from 1968 of the type raced by Renzo Pasolini and Kel Carruthers.  It's motor is DOHC, four valve, and seven speed. I had raced this bike several times, including the IOM where I crashed it on the first lap of the '93 Junior Classic Manx GP while leading and took a ride in the helicopter.  It was last run in 1997 at Schubenacadie, Nova Scotia, where we had an engine failure.
The DOHC, 16 valve, seven speed 350 Benelli with it's beautiful  dry clutch

I went out on the track first on Wagon Wheels.  It's a bit awkward as the clip-onscreen very close together and inboard of the fairing.  Williams idea was to get the bike as narrow and aerodynamic as possible.  But, once I got rolling it wasn't a problem.  I did have some trouble shifting initially as the shift lever is a bit too long for me, but I managed once I got used to it.  When Alan Cathcart did a racer test on it at Mallory Park, he described the front brake (a Lockheed caliper with a 10" iron rotor) as "so wooden, it gives trees a bad name".  But, at the pace I was going, it seemed fine.  And, that pace was slow as someone crashed on our first lap on track at what seemed like a very low speed.  I guess just cold tires as the track seemed fine as we gradually upped the pace and I scrubbed in the new tires.
I took the BSA out next and, like the Matchless, I had some initial trouble shifting as it's lever was too long, also.  After a few laps, we were gelling nicely as I was reacquainted with an old friend.  It's a big, heavy bike with a heavy crankshaft/primary drive and therefore lots of gyroscopic effect which require some muscle to overcome, but it steers very well and has great brakes.
Finally, I went out on the Benelli, another totally different animal.  It shifted the best of the three and, with it's seven speeds and a relatively light crank, that's a good thing.  It was smoking a bit with rings that hadn't seated and I was shutting off early on the straight in deference to drum brakes and tires from 1997 which we hadn't had time to change, but it still seemed fast and I was getting into top gear.
Almost all of the other bikes participating in the track day were much newer that ours, but it wasn't a problem as there were few bikes overall and it didn't seem to be a problem going out in either group.  With plenty of track time, everyone seemed to pack up before the official end.
However, there was a good turnout for the bike show and there were lots of spectators for it and the swap meet and it has the potential to turn into a real event.
Talking with my old buddy, Bill Burke.  Ken Richardson photo
Mike Gontesky tells Bill Himmelsbach how it is on a cool, windy day.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

AHRMA Sonoma raceway

From Willow Springs, I rode up to Sacramento with Karl and Monday got working on the bike.  Mike determined that the swing arm pivot failure that we experienced at Willow was from a D shaped retainer, which the spindle socketed into, had broken free, allowing the spindle to back out of the retaining bolt on the other side.
 Mike started to work on repairing the fairing.
before
During
I discovered a broken spoke in the rear wheel.  Mike had another wheel with a broken spoke and I harvested two spokes from a third wheel to repair the two.
harvesting spokes

Tuesday, we took the bike over to Karl's and he came up with a plan to fix it.  This involved Mike and me finding some 2" diameter steel bar stock.  This took us to a neat old welding supply store in Auburn in a building that dated back to 1865.  We dropped the bar stock off with Karl, then drove to Davis to pick up some supplies from Mike's storage facility.  Back at Mike's house, I started cobbling a bench to put the bike on, because at my age I don't want to work on my knees.  After dinner, we drove over to Karl's and put both bikes in his pickup and took them back to Mike's.  In the morning, we finished the bike (except for the final paint on the fairing), organized the tools and spares, loaded everything up and headed for Sonoma.  There we rented a garage and unloaded the pickup and waited for the track day to finish to move in.
Garage mates Don Lange arrived from Seattle and and his old musician buddy Kenny Cummings arrived from NYC via SFO.  Several years ago, Don had become intrigued with Kenny's hobby of racing vintage bikes and started coming to the races and filming.  After a year or so, Don bought a street bike, a Honda CBR300F.  After another year or so, Don bought a race bike, a CB 175 Honda.  The weekend before the AHRMA Sonoma race, Don took a race school and made his race debut at Pacific Raceway in Kent, Washington.  This allowed Don to race at Sonoma and he invited Kenny to share his bike, racing it in 250GP, while Don rode it in the CB160 class and 200GP.
Kenny Cummings on left and Don Lange or right with Don's CB175.  Don's made a brilliant start to his RR career.  photo by Stacie B. London

On the first lap of my first practice Thurs., the gas cap flew off when I braked for turn #9.  I came right into the pits and we were able to bodge a solution with tape and an aerosol spray can top and a zip tie and I was able to get one for one or two more laps.  A couple of laps into the 2nd practice, I saw my teammate Walt Fulton III on a sister bike had crashed at turn #2, but was up and looked OK.  A couple of laps later, I was given the black flag at start/finish, and I pulled off at the next corner worker in turn #2.  I couldn't see anything wrong with "my" bike, while Walt's was a bit rough, and we both came back on the crash truck.
Always could be worse, but bad enough to put it out of commission for the event 
I found the black flag was for exceeding the 103db noise level.  I was told that track policy was three strikes and you're out: exceed 103db three time and you could no longer put the bike on the race track.
Mike and Karl, with the help of Andrew Cowell, fabricated a crude deflector to try to direct the exhaust away from the noise meter.  It was decided that "Walt's" bike was too badly damaged to fix up and that he and I would share "my" bike.  Therefore, I changed my entry from 350GP to Sounds of Singles 3, the single cylinder class for the smallest bikes, so Walt could race in 350GP.  SOS3 was gridded last behind Sound of Thunder 2 and Vintage Superbike Heavyweight in the first wave, and Triumph Thruxton TransAtlantic Cup and Electric bike class.  The other bikes in SOS3 were Mick Hart on a RS125 Honda, Mark Hunter on a Morwaki 250, Kurt Hipp on a pretty standard RC390 KTM, and Austin McCabe on a tricked out RC390 with reprogrammed ECU, special twin exhaust, special yokes, etc.  Austin led from the start with me second, but Mick came by in turn #5 on the 1st lap.  Mick got by Austin at some point , but they were well ahead of me and I finished a mere 0.008 seconds ahead of Mark.  We had passed one of the SOT2 bikes, two of the Vintage Superbikes, three of the Thruxtons and all of the e-bikes.  Good fun, but when I came in, I was informed that I had again exceeded the noise limit.  Strike Two.  
So it was decided that I would sit out the 500 Premiere race that I was entered in to ensure that Walt would get to ride in the 350GP.  Walt's significant other, Nancy, rode her bike to an auto parts store in Novato and got some radiator hose with elbows and some hose clamps and Karl and Mike made a better deflector for the exhaust.  The 350GP was also a second wave start and Walt, focused on a new to him starter, screwed up and launched with the first wave.  He immediately realized what he had done and stopped and waited until the entire second wave had left to start himself.  He consistently closed on the 350GP leader, Jim Neuenberg on Fred Mork's short stroke H-D Sprint, and came up less than 3 seconds short, but with a fastest lap more than 2 seconds quicker than Jim.  When Walt came in after the cool off lap, the radiator hose deflector was missing having fallen off sometime during the race, but he never tripped the noise meter.
At Willow Springs, I felt that the Grimeca front brake didn't make that much difference, but one doesn't brake much at Willow.  At Sonoma there are many hard braking areas and the Grimeca was definitely better but both Walt and I felt that the weight of it made it much harder to heave the bike from side to side through the esses.
This big Grimeca 4LS front brake definitely stopped better than the previous A1R, but it's weight also made it harder to change direction.  There's no free lunch
Karl took the exhaust pipe home with him and made a more secure connection for another radiator hose elbow.
Mike drills while Karl directs to attach radiator hose deflector to exhaust
Friday, I figured we had the noise problem licked, but in practice I short shifted by the noise meter to be safe and didn't have any problem.  In Friday's SOS3 race Austin McCabe didn't start, nor did Ari Henning, who showed up with his well developed KTM RC390, but both of them raced SOS1 and SOS2.  This may have to do with their bikes being of at least questionable legality for SOS3.  The rules say:"Single-cylinder machines with production chassis (with street-legal VIN) must retain stock bore and stroke, stock frame, forks and wheels.  Eligible machines include KTM 390RC and Duke."  Austin had told me that he bought the race version of the RC390, which may well have not had a 'street-legal VIN'.  Ari started with a street-legal RC390, but I don't know if it had stock forks and wheels and, in any case, he never entered SOS3.
So, in Friday's race, I was running 2nd to Mick Hart when, starting the 7th lap, I got the 'meatball' flag.  I assumed it was for noise again and wondered if I should pull off.  But, a couple of corners later, Zack Courts lapped me on his SOT2 FZ-O7 Yamaha, so I knew I would get the checkered flag the next time around and something in the back of my mind told me that I had a couple of laps to respond to a Meatball flag (as opposed to a black flag).  So, I didn't pull off and took the checker, finishing 2nd in class to Mick Hart and 15th overall of the 27 finishers and ahead of one of the SOT2 bikes, two of the Vintage Superbikes, two of the Thruxtons, and all of the e-bikes.  But, when I came in off the cool off lap, I was told to report to tech.  Cal Lewis, the AHRMA referee, told me that I had indeed gone over the sound limit again.  I told him that in practice I had short shifted by the sound meter and had been alright.  He told me that until the track said that I couldn't go out again, he would interpret the 3 strikes rule as per day.
So in the 500 Premiere race, I led off the line from pole position, but Ari Henning and Jon Munns came by me between turns #2 & 3 on their 500 Sportsman 350 Hondas.  I had a big slide on the exit of turn #5 which cooled my jets a bit, and then I really short shifted by the noise meter and lost touch with the two of them, but stayed close enough that I was able to watch a really good battle between them.  My fastest lap was more than 1.6 seconds slower than in the SOS3 race, largely because of short shifting for the noise meter, and I finished 3rd overall and 1st in class.
Walt got the start right this time for the 350GP, though he follow Jim Neuenberg for a few laps as he had ridden at all Fri. up until then.  He passed Jim and won by just under a second.  Walt didn't short shift by the noise meter and never exceeded the limit.  Did we take different lines, sit on the bike differently, shift at different points?  Who knows, but I tripped the meter 4 times over the 2 days and Walt not once.  Life isn't fair.  My best lap time this year was 2:02.434; last year I did a 1:58.490, almost 4 seconds faster, and that was on a frame that turned out to be significantly bent from the crash the previous week at Willow Springs, and was subsequently straightened.  It's not entirely valid to compare times year to year as a lot of things change, but 4 secs.  The brake might have been a bit of that and maybe the tires were getting a bit old, but 4 secs?  It can't be because I'm getting old, can it?
Lenora Cox, editor of the Velocette Owners Club newsletter, rode this MAC to the track
Lenora let me ride it around the paddock and it's badass
Jeff Scott fettled the MAC and made this exh. clamp
An interesting character assembled this tableau outside our garage

Saturday, I did a 85 mile road ride with my good friend Parra and three other Roadoilers.
With my old friend Parra in what could be mistaken for his native Ireland.  Great photo by Robert Bleeker
 Last year,  I rode Parra's TR5T Triumph, but it played up with a leaking fuel line, so I road his Dick Mann Special TT500 Yamaha.
With the Dick Mann Specialties TT 500 Yamaha (despite what the tank says) Robert Bleeker photo
Dick made nearly 200 frame kits for the XT/TT500 between '76 and '81.  Parra had initially cow trailed the bike but later converted it to road use.  It has Betor forks with Marzocchi yokes, Kosman front wheel with a Lockheed caliper and a Yamaha MX rear wheel and fuel tank, and Works Performance rear shocks.  Gus rode his '58 BSA Goldstar,  Robert rode his '83 Honda VF 750 Interceptor, Parra rode his FT500 Honda Ascot, and Jim rode his 2011 XT250 Yamaha, which may have been the smallest bike, but it was also the newest and Jim is an old roadracer and he led and set a great pace.
L to R Parra, me, Jim and Gus.  Robert Bleeker photo
 Parra, Robert and I left Parra's house in Forest Knolls and met Jim and Gus in Pt. Reyes Station.  From there we headed north through Marshall, then headed inland through Fallon, Valley Ford, Two Rocks, Dillon Beach and stopped in Tomales.
I critique the DMS TT500 for Parra.  Robert Bleeker photo
Robert headed back to the East Bay and Gus, Parra and I left Jim there and headed back to Forest Knolls with Gus peeling off at the end.  It was a gorgeous day and Marin was quite green after some recent rain.  The roads were fabulous and what an eclectic collection of bikes.
.

Corsa Moto Classica

Busy day at Willow Springs today.  I took Mike Bungay's 350 H-D Sprint out in the first Group 3 practice and eased into it as it had a fresh liner and rings, though it had spent some time on the dyno. It also had the front brake changed from an A1R Kawasaki to a 230mm Grimeca.  The Grimeca is much heavier, but is much more powerful than the A1R ever was. Exiting turn#3 on the 4th lap, while still getting up to speed, I rolled on the throttle and promptly spun the bike out.  I was dumbfounded as I didn't think that I was anywhere the limit.  It was a nice gentle low side and I wasn't hurt at all, and the bike wasn't that bad: broken windscreen, hole in the fairing, bent rear brake pedal, and lots of dirt around, but none in the carb.
While Mike was finishing up kicking it straight, I took Gary Roper's beautiful Velocette MAC out.  Gary had had trouble with it when it wet sumped when he was testing it and it severely overheated.  He thinks there was an obstruction in the oil return line, but he also found a cyl. stud insert pulling out of the case and excessive end float in the crankshaft.  The piston and liner were scored a bit.  Gary worked insane hours to get this all fixed in time to make the drive from Medford, Or.  His plan was to take the AHRMA rider's school on Fri., get his license, and race the Velo himself over the weekend.  But, he ran out of time and didn't make it to Willow until Fri. afternoon, missing the school and his chance to race.
So, he offered the bike for me to race, but he wasn't totally confident that it would survive.  I decided to just take it out in practice on Sat., and if it was OK, race it on Sun.  But, at the end of my first lap on it, it started to vibrate badly and I pulled off.  Another of the cyl. stud inserts had pulled out and the head was loose.  So, the Velo was parked for the weekend.
I went out for the second round of practice on the Sprint and it felt good, though I was taking turn #3 gingerly.  In fact, I thought we'd have to gear it up as I was hitting redline easily.  But then, on the 4th lap, it seemed to slow or loose power.  I backed out of it, but the motor still seemed free and I gradually wicked it up and it accelerated briskly down the back straight.  Then, in turn #8, it seemed to lose power and slow again and I pulled into the pits.
We went over the bike quite throughly and didn't find anything wrong.  Was I imaging it?  So, we just gassed up the bike for my first race, race #7, 500 Premiere, 500GP, and Vintage Superbike Middleweight in the first wave and 500 Sportsman and Historic Production Heavyweight in the second wave.  I was on the pole, with Jeff Elings next to me on a G-50 Matchless, and Andrew Mauk on his right with a 450 Honda racer.  From the start, Ed Milich on a Cagiva Allazurra based racer shot into the lead and Mauk out dragging me to turn #1.  I got by Andy braking into turn #3, but then had a bit of a slide in the corner, and another in the left hand, downhill turn #5.  Now I was thinking there was something wrong with the left side of my tire.  Andy motored by me on the back straight, I was able to get by him in the last turn and he came by on the front straight.  I got by again and led for several laps.  But, as I suspected, Andy was going to school on me (he had only been to Willow once, three years before) and he passed me just before the last lap flag and I followed him, making a big effort in the last corner and pulling out of his draft but coming up 0.640 sec. short. A very good race.
I was immediately up for the next race, the 350GP, 350 Sportsman, Classic 60's and F-125 race.  My teammate on Karl Engellenner's sister bike, Walt Fulton III, had a fastest lap over two seconds faster than mine in practice.  He had geared his bike up, which I didn't do because of my perceived mysterious slowing, and he thought it helped.  I got in the lead from pole at the start, but Walt stuck a wheel in on me on the second lap, then passed me on the back straight.  I tucked right into his draft coming out of turn # 9, but he slowly crept away up the front straight.  I got by him again going into the Omega and he decided to follow for a while.  Then he passed me before the last lap and, as in the previous race, I made a big effort in the last corner and got in his draft but he crept away to take the checker first, by 0.345 second.  another very good race.  There was a good race behind us, too.  Tim Mings recovered from a poor start on his CB 77 Honda to close down on Jim Neuenberg on Fred Mork's short stroke 350 H-D Sprint to finish 0.792 sec.s behind in fourth.
Mike and Karl took a tooth off the rear sprocket and went up one jet size on "my" bike after Saturday's racing.  In Sunday mornings 1st practice, the electronic tach didn't work so I wasn't able to get a definitive fix on the gearing, but it felt good and I went faster than I had in Saturday's practice.  In the second practice, I had a working tach again, but there was a red flag immediately when Andy Mauk, my arch nemesis in Saturday's 500 premiere race, crashed in turn #6.  In the Saturday race, I noticed his bike was smoking a good deal, from the fairing rather than out of the exhaust pipes, and I thought he must be leaking oil.  I mentioned this to him after the race, but he said no, he didn't see any evidence of an oil leak and the bike was running great, but he'd look it over well.  After the Sun. morning crash, I went to check on him and he was basically OK, but expected that he was going to feel pretty sore from his tumbling.  I said "so your bike was leaking oil", but Andy said no, that he had just lost the rear end and the the oil they were cleaning up on the track was deposited after the bike hit the pavement.  But, when I went back a couple of hours later to see if, against all odds, they had gotten the bike fit to race, a chagrined Andy said that they had found a crack in the oil cooler fitting, and it had been leaking.
This meant that I had no real competition in Sunday's 500 Premiere race and I finished about 18 seconds ahead of the next bike, Stephen Hipp on a Sportsman bike from the 2nd wave and about 35 seconds ahead of the other 500 Premiere bike, Jeff Elings on a G-50 Matchless.  The clutch had grabbed at the start and the bike was a little squirrelly, but I just put that down to the wind.  Coming off the track, I couldn't find neutral, the clutch feeling funny, though there was plenty of free play in the cable. Mike gassed it up for the immediately following 350GP race, but when I went to back it up onto compression, it seemed like something was binding.  It started right up and I started out for the warm-up lap.  But, the bike definitely felt squirrelly, and I stopped before leaving the pit lane to see if the rear axle was loose.  No sign of that, so I carried on, but now there was no question that something was definitely wrong and I just slowly putted back to the pits.  There we saw that the swing arm spindle had backed out of the bushing on the drive side, allowing the chain tension to vary radically and maybe even the tire to hit the chain as the swing arm flopped around.
Walt Fulton III lead from the start, but Jim Neurenberg had found something and was right on Walt's tail.  Walt didn't realize this and wasn't pushing too hard thinking he had a good lead with me out of the race.  It wasn't until the 350 Sportsman bikes of Rick Carmody and Stephen Hipp caught up and one of them passed Walt just before the last lap, that Walt put his head down and won overall.
So Team Bungay/Engellenner had a pretty good weekend with three wins and two seconds, and Walt riding the best he has since the early Seventies.  Great to see.
As usual, Corsa Moto Classica had a great concours.
a 150? Gilera
This AT-1? pitbike really spoke to me
Hans Mellberg has restored the legendary 250 Parilla Gaget
Frank Scurria, who raced Gaget in the 60's was there, too
This pit bike was used constantly all weekend
an absolutely stunning restoration of a 250 Bultaco Metralla

A Velo Scrambler
I thought this was a very nice tribute to a Matchless G-45 made out of a Kawasaki W-1

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Horex lives

After picking away at my '59 Horex Resident 350 for over two years (picked up Christmas, 2012) intermittently when I visited my brother and sister-in-law, I finally got it on the road.  Over Easter weekend we pulled the bikes out of the basement and I took the Horex for only maybe a two mile ride, as it wasn't insured or registered.  It wasn't shifting correctly, but ran well enough for me to register it.  

So, last Thurs., I called Dairyland's 800 number to add it to my policy with my '53 Moto Guzzi Airone and '68 TC 200 Suzuki.  They couldn't find a manufacture's code for Horex, surprisingly enough, and therefore they couldn't insure it.  I asked "why not?" and was told "company policy".  I asked to speak to a supervisor and she told me the same thing.  But why?  They only insure bikes for sale in the US and some vague talk about knowing the specs.  But, I'm just asking for liability insurance.  Company policy.  
I called my brother and asked him who he insures his bikes with and he tells me Dairyland.  So, I called his agent and the agent tell me this is ridiculous and says he'll look into it.  He calls me back and says he just talked to Dairyland and they said no problem, but he couldn't actually do it for me for some reason.  I call Dairyland back, and I'm told the same thing, that they can't insure it because there's no code for Horex.  I speak to the supervisor again and tell her what the agent told me.  She doesn't budge.  I tell her that my brother has a Jawa insured with them; does that have a MFG code?  She starts to waver a bit.  I call my brother back and get his policy # for his Jawa and Norton Electra.  I call back the supervisor and ask why, if they can insure these bikes and my '53 Airone, can't they insure the Horex.  She says she'll have to speak to the underwriters, but it's not going to happen today.  
In the meantime, I've called Progressive, Allstate, and Geico and they're more than willing to insure the Horex, but for a good deal more money and it would mean another policy with a different expiration date.
Fri. morning, I speak to the Dairyland supervisor again and she tells me the underwriter says they can insure it by calling it a 'custom', but they need photos of it and a valuation.  I tell them it's worth $1000 but it will be several hours until I can send them photos as it in Ct. and I'm in N.Y.  So much for my plan of registering it on my way up to my brother's.  But, I ride up there and and take and email photos.  After some delay, I speak to the supervisor again and she says she doesn't see any turn signals on the bike.  I remind he that it's from 1959 and they didn't have them then, nor does my Airone and Doug's Jawa have turn signals.  She finally caves and agrees to insure the bike and I get the insurance ID cards emailed to me just before 5p.  When we printed them, sheets and sheets came out and I thought 'how many copies do I need?'
This meant trying to register the bike Sat. morning.  My brother warned me that when he last went to DMV on a Sat. morn, he got in line at 7:45 for the 8a opening, got in the building at 8:30 and got out at 11:45.  Maybe things have improved a bit as I got there at ten of 8 and got in the building with the first group.  When I showed the clerk who gives out the numbers my paperwork, she look at the insurance card that I handed her and saw that it was for a Suzuki, not the Horex.  Oh no, they send the wrong card.  Then I remembered the three sheets we had printed out and, sure enough, the third was for the Horex.  They had sent ID card for all three bike on the policy. Phew.  
So, I got a number and settled down with a good book, 'From the Race Shop Floor' by Hedley Cox.  After two plus hours, my number was called and I got my second scare when the clerk took the last registration certificate of the Horex, from April of 1977, and showed it to another clerk.  Then they both showed it to another clerk, who gave me the thumbs up.  Phew.  Everything was going swimmingly until I swiped my credit card to pay for this privilege, and the computer froze up.  After a wait and much button pushing , it unfroze (melted?), but then she had to go to the supervisor to make sure that I wasn't charged twice.  I got out of there at 11:30 after another character building experience at DMV.

Fri., after I realize that I couldn't register it to the next day, after replacing the left side engine cover, I took it for a short test ride and found that I could not select 4th gear.  So, I pulled the cover again and found that I had indexed the selector incorrectly.  I moved the pawl carrier what seemed like one spline on the shaft and notice there was a line on each which seem to line up.  Sat,, after I got the license plate on, I took off to visit a friend in Mystic, a little over 40 miles away.  As soon as I left I realize that I now couldn't select 1st gear, but decided to carry on anyway.  The motor is quite torquey and with a little clutch slip and patience, I seemed to manage fine starting in 2nd.  I was pleasantly surprise by how well it handles and how decent the suspension is.  The brakes however and very underwhelming and the motor does vibrate some.  I missed a turn and ended up going through Bozrah, probably making the 40 mile trip 50 miles.  In Norwich, I noticed the nuts on the front engine stud spinning loose.  And, I was gaining clutch freeplay and it didn't want to disengage fully.  At my friend's house, we tightened the engine nuts and readjusted the clutch cable and discovered that I had a slight gas leak from one of the mounting tabs on the fuel tank, despite the fact that I had coated the tank with POR-15.  Jim took me over to a neighbor he had met who I used to race with in the good ol' days, Tom Silva.  I raced Tom's H-2 Kawasaki once at Bridgehampton, and it seized on one cyl., but was still pretty fast.
I headed back at maybe 6:30 and it started to get cool.  I had replace the ignition/charging system with a cheater Powerdynamo, a 12V, 150 watt system with pointless electronic ignition.  So, I plugged in my electric jacket liner and gloves and enjoyed a toasty vintage ride.  I drained the tank when I got back, but didn't get anything else done before dark.
The next morning, I refilled the tank and rode to the British Iron Association breakfast in Colchester, an 18 mile ride that I managed to make at least 20.  The thermometer read 40 degrees as I rode through Haddam, but again, I was plugged in and warm.  Most of the guys had never seen a Horex before, but Ad Coppens had almost bought one when he was a lad back in Holland, but he bought the Matchless instead and now he's an AMC repair and parts specialist.
When I got back, I took off the side cover again and finally got the selector indexing right.  I took off the fuel tank and the tank had been previously been epoxied where it was now leaking.  I removed all the epoxy to see if I could see exactly where it was leaking.  It looked like it had been soldered before it was epoxied, but even putting some compressed air in the tank and spraying soapy water mover the area, I couldn't see a leak.  I put the tank back on and put gas in it and there was no sign of leaking.  Go figure.  
Yes, I did lube the chain after taking this photo
Amy Roper photo
With the left side cover in my lap, figuring out the indexing.  Amy Roper photo
Brother Doug getting his Benelli ready for the ride.  Amy Roper photo
My brother and I went for a ride, Doug on his 250 Benelli.  After we had gone several miles, I looked down and saw that my fuel cap was missing.  We turned around and retraced our path, looking for it.  I was thinking that I was never going to find it and that it was well off in the woods somewhere.  But, a mile back at the last intersection, there it was, laying in the middle of the road.  I'm the luckiest guy in the world.  We carried on with our ride on great roads in ideal conditions, warm and sunny by now and with the leaves still off the trees so one could see deep into the woods and around corners.  After a while, the barrel pulled off the end of my clutch cable, so we headed back.  I was very glad that I now had use of 1st gear and only had to come to a full stop at one traffic light.  I was able to waddle in neutral and kick it in gear and make it back without too much abuse and we got in about 40 miles.  I soldered a new end on the cable before putting it away.  
All together, a pretty successful debut for the Horex, successful enough to justify investing some more into it.  I need sprockets, exhaust head pipes, a speedometer that works, and a few 7 X 1.0 X 40mm oval head slot head screws (where do I get those?).

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hugh Anderson and Ernst Degner

I recently read Hugh Anderson's autobiography 'Being There'.  Hugh is a New Zealander who rose to top of motorcycle competition in N.Z., then went to Europe to make his mark on the British short circuits and the Continental Circus as a privateer racing British singles.  He did well enough to attract the attention of the fledgling Suzuki road race team and was one of the early contracted 'Western' riders. He ended up winning four World Championships in the 50 and 125cc classes.  He then retired from roadracing and pursued Motocross or, as it was then more commonly known, scrambles.  After a few years of this, he retired from competition and returned to N.Z., with his Dutch wife, who he had met in the Hospital in Assen, and their daughter.  After some years, he got involved in establishing Classic racing in N.Z.  After dominating the Classic racing scene in N.Z., he started making regular forays back to Britain and Europe to road race the classics there.  He continued to race into this century and his description of a life of racing at the highest level is fascinating.
I got to know Hugh when we had several encounters first at Circuit Paul Ricard at a Classic support race at the '86 French GP, then at Donnington Park at the CRMC Classic Race of the Year, and two years at John Surtees SuperPrix at Brands Hatch in '89 and '90.  I also visited him at his home in Hamilton, N.Z. In '89 while on holiday with mt parents.  I recognized him then as the consummate racer, intense and serious while also being friendly and outgoing.  Reading his autobiography only increased my respect for him and the other survivors of this rapidly changing and extremely dangerous period in the sport.
I was struck with the parallels between Hugh and another 'colonial': Michelle (then Mike) Duff.  Both became proficient in their home country, then left for Europe in 1960 with British singles.  Both raced for Arter Bros.  Both got coveted contracts with fledgling Japanese manufacturers of two strokes.
At the end of 1965, only 5 people had won more GPs than him: Redman, 43; Hailwood, 40; Ubbiali, 39; Surtees, 38; and Duke, 33.  Hugh had won 25, but in only 4 years, therefore averaging 6.25 wins per year, only behind Surtees at 6.33/yr., Hailwood at 6.66/yr, and Redman at a remarkable 8.6/yr.
Hugh's decision to quit roadracing at the end of '66 seems to be based in part on feeling that he had nothing else to prove and a changing atmosphere in the Suzuki team.  He was having less control over the set up of his bikes as decisions were being made more in Japan than at the races by the riders, and therefore they were having less reliability.  Plus, he had always really enjoyed riding in the dirt and was looking for a new challenge.  In '67, '68, and '69 Hugh raced motocross on the National and International level with the occasional MX GP and the odd grass track event.  Though he wasn't the GP star that he had been in roadracing, he had a good deal of success considering that he was in his 30's and his left knee was deteriorating.
One thing that struck me in Hugh's book was his depiction of Ernst Degner.  Some years back, I read an excerpt from Max Oxley's book 'Stealing Speed', about Ernst Degner defecting from East Germany and the MZ roadracing team, and taking the secrets (and some hardware) of his mentor, the genius Walter  Kaaden, to Suzuki.  I got the impression that Mat painted Degner as the Bad Guy.  Some time afterwards I saw Mat at the Isle of Man (Mat is a TT winner) and I suggested that he was being a bit hard on Degner.  After all, Degner was escaping the despotic, corrupt, grey life for him and his family for freedom in the West.  Yes, Mat said, but from his interviews with Degner's widow, son, colleagues and friends, he got the impression that Ernst wasn't a nice man.
So, I was struck when I read in Hugh's book "Over time Ernst became my mentor, and we often worked into the night together on our bikes when the other team members were out on the town.  Even the fact that his help meant I was able to beat him on the track did not change his willingness to keep giving me advice."
"Very few sportsmen are capable of such a selfless attitude.  It was a sad day when injuries forced Ernst to retire and then he lost his life, far too soon, from a heart attack.  To me he was a special person and a man who always seemed in good spirits."
Reading this cause me to get a copy of 'Stealing Speed' to get Oxley's full picture of the man.  This is another fascinating book which illuminates the relationship between Degner and Kaaden, but also the changing technology and Coldwar politics of the era.  As I read it, Oxley portrays Kaaden as a genius who was an innocent victim of the politics of his homeland, first the Nazis, then the Commies.  Degner he portrays as a capable racer and technician, but someone who was self centered, greedy, and perhaps shallow.
Oxley captions a photo "Fifteen-year-old Walter Kaaden in his Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth) uniform in 1934.  Kaaden was no Nazi, but six years later he was working on Hitler's top-secret rocket programme.  It's not like he had any choice."
During WWII, Kaaden worked on rocket technology at Peenemunde where the V-1 Buzz Bomb and V-2 rockets were developed, until the Brits flattened it in August of '43.  Rocket development was then moved to the Harz mountains in central Germany, underground in an old gypsum mine.  Kaaden worked on a air-to-surface guided missile launched from bombers, then on the Me 262 jet fighter, and along side the group working on the V-1, arguably the first cruise missile.  the V-1 was powered by a pulse jet engine, and that's where Kaaden first learned about pressure waves, which he later applied to two stroke exhaust and induction.
While Oxley is painting Degner as the rat who stabbed his mentor in the back for his own personal gain, he paints Kaaden as an innocent victim was was apolitical who was just interested in knowledge and who had no choice.  I'm sure there's some truth to this, but I suspect the reality was less black and white and that both men lived with contradictions.
Oxley contends that Degner was vain and filled with avarice.  "It seem like Degner was getting greedy.....Other friends also noticed that a fat factory contract had changed Degner.  'He was a vain man, but when he was at Suzuki he became a bit of a prima donna,' says Gitti Stoepel.  'He had a nice contract, maybe that brought it out more.'"  Gitti Stoepel was the sister of Degner's and Anderson's teammate, Frank Perris' German wife.
But, on the next page Oxley quotes Perris: "Ernst was a super friend, a wonderful person", recalls Perris, who holds a higher opinion of the man than most" (but not apparently than Hugh Anderson who evidently Oxley never interviewed).  "I like to feel I'm a gentleman and Ernst was the same.  I can't imagine anyone disliking him, quite honestly.  He was a pal and then he was a team-mate.  He was a fabulous team-mate until he had that accident."  Perris is referring to the final GP of '63 at Suzuka where, after finishing 3rd in the 125 race, he crashed on the first lap of the 250 race, was knocked unconscious, and engulfed in burning fuel, and suffered severe burns that required many skin graft operations, and kept him out of racing for almost a year.  And, terribly disfigured a handsome and vain man's face.  And, caused great pain, which may well have gotten him addicted to painkillers.