Thursday, June 22, 2017

AHRMA Road America 2017

From Gingerman, I drove to Chicago and stayed with old friends and worked on my bike at Ken Kales Sports Car Store, as has become tradition.  Ken specializes in old sports cars but works on about any vehicle, including motorcycles.  He's an ex-sports car racer and avid motorcyclist.  He always has some interesting vehicles around and has excellent facilities and the shop has a very congenial atmosphere.
A Sunbeam Talbot drophead
With all the proper badges
A  Citroen 2CV
A Lotus (Super?) 7
This Alfa Romeo motor needed a head gasket

I wanted to repair the crash damage to my Sprint to a great extent to prep it for Rd. Am.  I had lost confidence in the front tire after my crash at Gingerman and I had John Stephens at Cycle Craft Motorcycles order me a Continental Classic Attack to replace the Avon AM26 that was on the bike.  I have raced several times with the Avon, pushed hard and never had a problem, but this tire was a 'take off' and perhaps had been heat cycled too many times.
While I was waiting for the tire to arrive, I repaired the front brake cable properly by reinstalling the ferrule I had removed at Gingerman, which required rearranging the adjusters.  I replaced the plug on my battery ground strap which had gotten bent in the crash and did some very basic repairs on the fairing.
But, the windscreen didn't break!
 I changed the rear sprocket for the higher speed of Rd. Am.  In cleaning the bike, I discovered a broken spoke in the rear wheel.  It wasn't obvious because it was broken in the nipple and was still captive, but was rattling around with no tension on it.  I didn't have a spoke, but Ken put out the word on the ChiVinMoto (Chicago chapter of the VinMoto group) list.  As has become tradition, Ken hosted the weekly Wed. night ChiVin garage crawl and, sure enough, Stephen Pettinger brought a few spokes and nipples to the event and one looked like it might work.  Stephen races in Sound of Singles 1 and Sportsman 750 and I ended up finishing less than a second ahead of him in Saturday's 350GP/Sportsman 750 race.  Thurs. I spent mounting and balancing the new front tire which arrived the day before, but didn't get to replacing the spoke as I had to load my stuff for the Fri. am departure to the track.
I got to the track Fri. afternoon and set up in a space the Aleks Kravchuk and Kenny Cummings had grabbed for me, and immediately dove into the rear wheel.  Often, one can replace a broken spoke without removing the tire, but because it was broken in the nipple, I couldn't get the broken piece out with the tire on.  When I got the tire off, I was glad I did as the the broken off piece of the spoke was backing out of the nipple through the tape and looked like eventually would go into the tube.  The nipple with the new spoke was too big in O.D. and wouldn't go through he hole in the rim but fortunately, was the same thread as the old nipple, so I just reused that.  The new spoke was too long and I had to shorten it.  The length of the threads was marginal but the spoke just tightened up before running out of thread.
Shortening the spoke with the broken spoke in the background

I took the first Saturday practice steady scrubbing in the new Conti front tire.  There was a strong headwind up the front straight and after the 2nd practice, I decided to lower my gearing by adding one tooth to the rear sprocket.
As at Gingerman, my 'bump up' race, the 500 Premiere was first and again we were gridded in the 2nd wave behind Vintage Superbike Middleweight and Novice Production Heavyweight in the 1st wave and 500GP and Formula 250 behind us.  Running a 350 in 500 Premiere at a horsepower track like Rd. Am. is perhaps a bit pointless and the other four bikes in the class cleared off.  Wes Orloff and Andrew Mauk again apparently had a great back and forth battle and Wes beat Andy by 0.037 seconds.  Ron Melton and Helmi Niederer also had a good battle for 3rd, though Helmi missed a shift near the end and Ron beat him by less than 3 seconds.  I was 28 seconds behind Helmi, 5th of five in class and 9th overall with 4 VSM bikes ahead of me.
Ron Melton's Manx exposed.  Francis Ganance photo
Kenny Cummings with Helmi Niederer's Seeley G-50
For the 350GP race, we were also gridded at the front of the second wave.  In the first wave was Next Generation Superbike, Formula 750 and Sportsman 750, while behind us in the second wave was Sportsman 500 and Vintage Superbike Lightweight.  At the start of the race, Jack Parker led the 2nd wave with Paul Germain and Bobby Birdsall on his quick Aermacchi also coming by.  Parker was running his first race of the season (having not been able to start the immediately preceding 250GP because of bike problems) and had told me before the race to not expect much from him, but I knew better.  He and I got into a good dice and were soon joined by a couple of bikes from the VSL class.  Parker's DT-1 Yamaha had good acceleration, but I had top end on him.  I was baulked several times by one of the VSL bikes that was slightly out of control, but I suppose Jack might have been baulked also.  Eventually, I was able to break away.  Running in the Next Gen. Superbike class was Dale Quarterly, a very successful AMA Superbike rider of the '90s who went on to a successful NASCAR career.  He has recently gotten back into bikes, coaching some of the young guns running in the MotoAmerica KTM 390 class.  Dale and I had a memorable dice at Bridgehampton in the early '80s in a AAMRR race and I raced his father-in-law, George Vincensi's, bike several times.  Dale was riding a 888(996?)Ducati in this race and lapped us like we were tied to the proverbial lamppost.  He won the race by almost a minute and 19 seconds and a fastest lap almost 10 seconds quicker than the next best in the race.  I beat Jack by just over a second and was 10th overall.  While my change of gearing was good for drafting Jack up the front straight, it meant I was over revving on the downhill straight into turn #5 and I had to consider if I wanted to change back for Sun.
Sunday's wind wasn't as strong and my revs on the front and back straights were closer to the same, although still more on the shorter back straight and I decided to leave the gearing where it was.  In hindsight, I may have been better off leaving the tall gearing on for Sat. and using 4th gear into the wind on the front straight and not over revving so much going into turn #5.
In the 500 Premiere race, Wes Orloff had a problem on the warm-up lap and didn't start the race and Ron Melton had some kind of problem and dropped out half way.  I at least kept Helmi in sight  and finished about 9 1/2 seconds behind him.  But, Alex McLean decided to race rather than toy with Larry Poons and came by and went on to pass Helmi.  So, I was 3rd in class and 9th overall.
For the 350GP, there was a little drama on the grid as Francis Ganance pointed out to Bobby Birdsall that he had a broken muffler hanger dangling down, but grid marshall Greg Bonelli determined that it wasn't too much of a problem and let him start.  Again, Jack Parker, Paul Germain, and Bobby Birdsall beat me off the line and maybe one or two of the Vintage Superbike Lightweight passed, but they all parked it going into turn #1 and I dove underneath them to lead the second wave.
Leading the 2nd wave into turn #5.  I would dice with William Wells 92R, Pete Homan 972, and Dan May 93.  Jack Parker 18 would drop out with a broken exhaust pipe, Paul Germain 61 finished 2nd in class and Bobby Birdsall 2 dropped out. Craig Chawla photo
 I didn't see any of the 350GP machines again, but had a good scrap with Pete Homan on a BMW, William Wells on a 400(?)Honda four, and Dan May on a BMW.  The four of us went by start/finish virtually side by side one lap.  The bigger bikes had acceleration on me, but I had a little top end on them, presumably because of my fairing.  Dan dropped back a bit, but Homan and Wells and I went at it to the end and I finished 0.122 seconds ahead of Pete with William another 0.182 seconds back.  Dale Quarterly didn't race in this race on Sunday, but we were still lapped, first by Bob Robbins on his Ducati.  Bob also had his Britten there and did some Demo laps on it.  I did my fastest lap of the weekend in this last race, almost 5 1/2 seconds faster the Saturday's 500 race, as it should be, in part because I gained confidence in the Conti front tire which worked very well.  There is some difference of opinion on how well these tires work in the wet, with some suggesting that more sipes should be added on the edge with a tire groover.  I guess I'll find out eventually.
L to R:Aleks Kravchuk, Kenny Cummings, myself, Jon Thorndike, and Pieter Zylstra.  I don't remember who took the photo
Mario Maggiorana had a Gilera Saturno there
Mario took the new rider school on Fri. but, for some reason, didn't start the race Sun.
Mario pointing something out to Murrae Haynes

Jack Parker's unmolested Bultaco Metralla

Eric Trosper with his mid '30s Moto Guzzi GTV.  Eric and his wife Cecilia race a Guzzi V-twin powered sidecar and won their class against no opposition at Rd. Am., but beat the 4 other outfits at Gingerman
Paul Germain's stable
A Yamaha Vision, ridden by one of the many spectators 
Matthew Quirk's 175 Puchs, one a 5 spd, the other 6spd.
The Puch's magnificent barrel and head
Pit mate, friend and sponsor, Aleksey Kravchuk's F-250 CB350 Honda
L to R: Alex McLean, Rave, and Helmi Niederer

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

AHRMA Gingerman 2017

June means the annual back to back AHRMA races in the Midwest, first Gingerman in southwest Michigan, then Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  My friend, arch nemesis, and problem child, Stu Carter talked me into helping him sort out some of his race bikes in the Friday practice.  Some time before, Stu had sent me a link to an Ebay auction for an early Aermacchi street bike that he was interested in.  It was in Manhattan and I noticed that the seller was probably somebody I knew.  I told Stu about this VanTech framed Motobi that I had seen at a show the seller had put on, that I thought was interesting.  Long story short, Stu bought the Motobi in addition to the  Aermacchi.  While the Motobi was built as a race bike, it's history was very uncertain.  Then there was Stu's 200 Honda that I had tried to race at Carolina Motorsports Park, but had been stopped by a leaking fuel tank.  Stu had fixed the tank and gotten more appropriate jetting for the carbs.  Finally, there was his Framecrafters framed KTM 450 Sounds of Singles bike for which he had gotten new carbon fiber wheels and new front brake rotor and pads.
Stu Carter's bikes from right to left: Honda 200, VanTech Motobi 250, and Framecrafter KTM 450
I rode the Motobi and Honda.  Stu hadn't been able to get the ignition timing as advance as we thought it should be because to the nature of the bracket holding the pickup for the Dyna S ignition, and we had little idea about the jetting.  We never got the motor running correctly, though after playing with the jetting, it did show some potential at moments.  While the chassis is light, there is some question if it's too spindly, as it did chatter some in a couple of corners.  Or, was that a function of little dampening in the front Ceriani 35mm forks?  In the end, the magnet flew out of the ignition rotor, and the bike was parked for the weekend.
Likewise, the Honda never ran right, one cylinder cutting in a out.  We played with the jetting but ultimately had no spark on one side and it was parked for the weekend.
Stu had better luck with his KTM single which seemed to work well, though he didn't get a lot of time on it and gearing seemed marginally short.
Saturday in my first practice, I took it steady as I had new tire on the rear and a 'take-off' on the front that someone had given to me at Barber last year.  The bike seemed to work fine, but when I came into the pits, it was spewing gas.  Stu had offered me a practice session on his KTM single and I went out on that immediately without determining the source of the gas leak on my bike.  The KTM was alien to me with slicks and tirewarmers, disc brakes, fuel injection and modern suspension.  I had trouble being smooth, esp. with the brakes, but after three laps I started to appreciate it.  The bike is fast and has a very broad power band.  However, I wanted to get back to the pits to figure out why my bike was spewing gas.  It didn't take long to see that the banjo bolt on top of the remote float had come loose and simply re-tightening it ended the crisis.
In the second practice, the motor died after a couple of laps and I look down to see that the ground lead had pulled out of crimped connector.  after a long push across the infield grass back to the pits, Stu and John Stephens gave me a tutorial on proper crimping techniques and that crisis was over.
Stu was in race #3, Sound of Singles 1, and, after getting a terrible start, was making up ground, then pulled off after a couple of laps.  He reported that his front brake went away with the lever coming to the grip, but when I squeezed it, the lever felt fine.  He thought maybe something was wrong with the master cylinder or it needed bleeding, but that didn't make sense to me because that would be constant, not happening all of a sudden.  After futzing with it a while, Stu went out for his primary class, SoS 2 and it was the same deal: terrible start, making up ground, then brake goes away and he retires.  My theory was that the brake fluid was boiling.  Maybe his new carbon fiber front wheel wasn't conducting the heat away from the rotor as well as a metal wheel and he had a new rotor and pads, which seemed very aggressive.
My first race was my 'bump-up' class, 500 Premiere, which was gridded in the front of the 2nd wave with Vintage Superbike Middleweight and Novice Historic Production Heavyweight in the first wave and 500GP, Sportsman 500 and Formula 250 behind us in the second wave.  Andrew Mauk, on Keith Leighty's CB450 based bike, and Wes Orloff, on Dale Coffman's CB450 based bike, took off and apparently had a ding dong with much passing back and forth and Andy finishing less than 0.2 seconds ahead of Wes.  I was able to track down Helmi Niederer on his Seeley G-50 and, after some back and forth, finished 3rd in class and 12th overall.
Keith Leighty's CB450 based racer which Andrew Mauk rode to two wins
My second race was the 350GP and again we started at the front of the 2nd wave with Formula 750 and Sportsman 750 in the first wave and Vintage Superbike Lightweight and Formula 500 behind us. I lead my class from the start, but on the second lap Paul Germain came by on his DT-1 Yamaha in turn #1(fresh from winning the 250GP on the same bike in the race immediately proceeding).  I passed Paul back on the 3rd lap.  On the 5th lap, Paul drafted me down the back straight and tried to outbrake me going into the last turn on the inside.  I had started to tip it into the right hand corner when Paul decided he was in too deep and wasn't going to make the corner.  He went straight across my bow and off the track, me barely missing him.  It was breathtaking, but Paul probably did the right thing, for if he had tried to make the corner, he probably would have taken both of us out.  Right after this near collision, the red flag came out when Brian Filo crashed from apparent brake failure and suffered serious injuries.  Results were scored to the previous lap when I was leading, I won the class and was 10th overall behind two F-750 and 7 Sportsman 750 bikes.

Taking the checker flag on my ERTT.  Artful photo by Judy Ganance
Sat. evening, Kevin Calloway arrived and brought with him some different brake pads for Stu to try, and Stu installed them and completely bleed the system of the old brake fluid.  We had some violent wind and rain over night and I was awakened to the sound of my E-Zup banging against the side of my van.  I couldn't will myself to go out and deal with it and figured that I'd just throw the scrap in the garbage in the morning.  But, in the morning, I found that some kind and noble fellow racer had lowered and re-secured my pop-up, and everything was in good shape.
I didn't go out for the first practice as the track was well wet and the forecast was good for the afternoon.  I went out in the second practice on a drying track just to check that the bike was OK, and on the second lap the motor died again at almost the same spot it had on Saturday's practice.  This time the positive lead to the battery had come off and I again had a long push through the infield grass  back to the pits.
The change of brake pads and fluid had cured Stu's problem and, while the brake was less aggressive, it was consistent and he got a 3rd in SOS 1 and 2nd is SOS 2.
In Sunday's 500 Premiere race, Helmi quite blatantly jumped the start and though he led for a while, I figured that he was going to be docked a lap.  At the end of the first lap, Wes Orloff got into that last corner too deep and ran off the track, so I was running 2nd to Andy Mauk in class.  Then Alex McLean came by on his 500GP Norton Manx and I couldn't let that go unanswered, could I?  I had a couple of front end slides and told myself to be smooth, but on the second to last corner of the race the downhill, off camber right, I lost the front and low sided into the grass.  I made out quite well, just banging the tip of my right middle finger, and the bike wasn't too bad either and didn't even break the windscreen.  But, it had broken the short brake cable between the lever and the splitter box for the two cables that go to each backing plate.  They weren't able to pick me up immediately and I watched race #7 from the cornerworker stand.  My consolation was that I was still scored as 2nd as Helmi was indeed docked a lap and Wes Orloff and Ron Melton didn't finish before I didn't finish.
Dale Coffman's CB450 based bikes which Wes Orloff rode
I had race #8 & 9 to fix the bike and get it re-teched and thought it was a long shot, but I discovered that I did have another short brake cable in my spares.  It was a bit shorter that the broken one and I had to change the perch and lever as I had lost the adjuster to the original one.  This meant that I had to remove the ferrule between the adjuster and the splitter box, but it looked like it would work alright.
I got the bike re-teched and went out for the warm-up lap of the 350GP.  At first it seemed OK, but before the lap was over, something changed and the front brake lever went to the grip.  I pulled into pit lane while the grid formed up and waved frantically to get someone's attention.  Eventually, Stu came over and I tried to explain through my helmet and the noise that I thought some safety wire would fix the problem of the splitter box cocking sideways.  Stu ran to my tool box, as he had already put his away and couldn't find the wire pliers but eventually came up with some wire and regular pliers and did a quick repair.  I started from the pit lane well after everyone else had left and, again, at first the brake worked fine and I got by one rider in my class.  But then the splitter box cocked again and the lever came back to the grip.  I still had a little front brake, but I had to brake really early and the leaders came by me.  Then a red flag came out, and it was back to the pit lane where I got another fellow's attention and he put more safety wire on the adjuster to keep the cable from popping out.  We had a three lap restart and again the brake worked fine initially but then went away.  I got into a cut throat duel with Francis Ganance on his 250 Ducati, with which he had just finished 3rd in the previous 250GP race.  I had lot of power on Francis, but he had lots of brakes on me and we went back and forth.  I barely held him off to the finish line and thought that I had ended up 2nd in class, despite it all.  But, the results had Francis in 2nd and me in 3rd, and when I went to indignantly complain, it was pointed out to me that I had been lapped and was down a lap on the re-start.  So, I was indeed 3rd, but still a gift as I thought there was little hope of even starting the race.  Never say die.
The safety wire on the adjuster was a futile attempt to keep the cable from coming out of the slot and allowing the splitter box to cock sideways

Stu Carter and Kevin Calloway look on as Francis and I debrief after our cut throat duel.  Judy Ganance photo

Stu, Francis and myself.  Judy Ganance photo
Helmi Neiderer's Seeley G-50s prepared by NYC Norton

Ron Melton's Manx Norton
Paul Germain's beautiful DT-1 Yamaha
Paul seems to consider the improbable

Juan Bulto broke on his 250 Bultaco Saturday, but won the 250GP Sunday
Art Kowitz's pristine Combat Wombat Hodaka




Saturday, May 20, 2017

USCRA Spring Giro 2017

The USCRA's Spring Giro this year was in Asheville, N.C.  The course was laid out by director Will Paley, and it was a fabulous one. I rode my '68 TC 200 Suzuki.
 We had some rain Fri. pm and over night and, while it was dry when we started Sat. morning, it rained a bit and we encountered some fog early on.  This made the dirt sections quite greasy and a challenge on skinny road tires.  Gary McCaw may have had the greatest challenge on his Ducati Diana MkIII with clip on handlebars.
The clip ons on Gary McCaw's Ducati Diana MkIII were a challenge on the dirt
 We headed east through Black Mountain to Old Fort, then north.  We sort of circled around the south side of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point in the U.S. east of the Mississippi.  Along the way, I stopped to help Carl Bachman who I saw stopped by the side of the road with his totally original 200 Bultaco Metralla.
Carl Bachman on his 200 Bultaco Metralla
He thought he had just fouled a plug and his plug wrench wouldn't fit under his tank.  Mine did and he put in a new plug, but then discovered that there was a lot of slack in the throttle cable, which we soon discovered was because the slide was stuck in the bore of the carb.  Carl got it out, but when he put it back, it jammed good and proper and he packed it in and called the 'sag wagon'.
Lunch was at the Ice Cream Deck in Micaville, where Tommy Cotter repaired the clutch cable on his bike in the now warm sunshine.  From lunch, we headed north through Double Island and Green Mountain.  Then I got quite lost and stopped to help another lost Giroista who's S-65 Honda had somehow lost the pin that drives the points cam off the OHC.  A local stopped and offered confusing directions and I headed off.  But, I soon lost faith and returned to the stranded S-65.
This isn't the S-65 Honda that got lost and died, but another one ridden by Doug Evans
It's rider had found a nail which he was going to try to use in place of the missing pin and he used the file/hacksaw in my Swiss Army Knife to shorten it.  The nail was too small in diameter and allowed too much slop in the points cam and, while the motor fired some, it wouldn't keep running.  I left him to the wolves, and tried to find the route again. He didn't get picked up until 7:30p as he was off the route and couldn't describe where he was.  Eventually, I found a road that was on the route sheet, though I was on it from the wrong direction.  This took me south and, after another challenging dirt section, took me to Barnardsville,  then Weaverville and back to south east Asheville.
That night at the banquet, Mike Gontestky played MC and got Gary McCaw and me up there to talk about our experiences of racing at the Isle of Man.
Sunday was glorious weather and we headed north and west to Weaverville via the Blue Ridge Parkway and Ox Creek Rd., then on to Bernardsville and Mars Hill.  The roads were fabulous with great views.  Grapevine, Big Laurel, Revere, and Lonely Mountain roads was an especially delightful section.
We had a time check at the Barnard River Park, and while there, Stewart Hall, father of Jake and Rob of HCV and a local, showed Rich Hosley and me a cache of old cars and trucks across the street and slowly returning to the earth.  He had his eye of a '49 Chevy pickup there, but I though "don't get involved".  Rob and Jake showed up, Rob on a 125 Sachs Boondocker and Jake on a 175 Hercules of dubious vintage.
Rob Hall's 125 Sachs Boondocker
The Herc had started running poorly and they suspected the coil in the magneto.  They had a coil, puller and impact driver with them.  What they didn't have was a hammer, but used a rock instead to pound on the impact driver to remove the flywheel and replace the coil and they were on their way again; what's the big deal?  I got a little lost again but managed to find my way into Marshall for lunch.  From Marshall, it was south through Stoney Knob and into North Asheville with a very challenging section of loose, large diameter gravel on Beaver Dam Rd.  Nearly 300 miles (well over 300 miles with my wrong turns) of terrific roads in mostly great weather.  This may have been the best Giro yet.
Jeremy Simpson's 175 Bridgestone Hurricane Scrambler
A 250 X-6 Suzuki
Lined up for the morning's agility test
My brother Doug on his 250 Benelli.  He had a rough Giro with the bike dying Sat. because both carb float bowl vents were plugged (which took a lot of diagnosing), then Sunday being rammed from behind and knocked down, breaking his front brake lever.  How he handled some of those steep downhills with no front brake I'll never understand.
There were four different Puch tingles on this Giro, this being a 250 badged as an Allstate
This is a '58 175 Allstate twingle, the oldest bike in this Giro 
I particularly admired his home made 'milk crate' with everything a Puch Giroista would need.
Jake Hall sitting on my TC200 Suzuki after we'd finished
evidence of the muddy dirt roads we had encountered.