Sunday, April 17, 2011

My season so far

I've raced my 1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino and my 1970 350 H-D Aermacchi at four venues so far this year. I started at Virgina Intl. Raceway in a WERA event. This was the first time I'd had the Dondolino on a track and I had a lot of teething problems as one expects from a new bike. Slipping clutch, oil leaks, and finally in the race, front brake failure. Luckily, I had enough room to get it slowed down (it has a great rear brake). The turn out was very light and I had an easy win on the H-D. From V.I.R., I drove to Savannah, Ga. to race at Roebling Road Raceway in AHRMA's first race of the season. I spent the practice day fixing all these niggling problems with the Dondolino and didn't get it on the track, but ran it around the paddock at the end of the day. The next day, the Dondo died on the first lap of practice--no spark. I found the button on the magneto end of the high tension lead had come off and thought that must be the problem. But, after soldering it back on, still had no spark. I was ready to believe the magneto had died, but Al Hollingsworth kept futzing with it and after a while, there was spark. I started the race with no practice on the bike and Alex McLean on Bob McKeever's cammy rigid Norton gapped me. But, after a few laps I noticed I was closing on Alex. About the time I pulled along side him, he squirted away and the Dondo started running poorly again. If I gave it much throttle, the motor would cut out. I was able to nurse it to the finish, though, ending up 2nd. I was able to win the 350gp fairly comfortably on the H-D Aermacchi.
Again, I suspected the magneto on the Dondo, though I wondered about fuel feed also, but I didn't find anything wrong with either. The next day, it ran fine for both practice and, in the race, I got the hole shot and led the first lap. But, at the end of the straight starting the 2nd lap, Alex came flying by and pulled steadily away. Again I finished 2nd, but well clear of the others in the class. And, again, I won the 350gp.
When I got home, I discovered the throttle wasn't opening all the way and I ordered a throttle with a bigger barrel from Jon White at Prova. And, I ordered a bigger rear sprocket when I learned the next circuit on the calendar, Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, Tx., was quite short. I drove to Roanoke, Va. where I loaded my bikes and gear into Eric Mercer's van and trailer and we continued on to Tx. Practice went well in hot conditions and I felt I got a fair handle on this tricky little course. But, I totally blew the start of Sat. Class 'C' race on the Dondo as I thought I was in gear but wasn't when the flag dropped. By the time I got it in gear, everyone was gone. Keith Martin at Big D cycles had built a very fast rigid, pre-unit Triumph and his rider, Ryan Ambrose, is 27 yrs. old and brave and knows the track intimately. Ryan's fastest lap was 4 secs. faster than Alex or me, and I finished a distant 3rd. In 350gp, Paul Germain got the hole shot on his very well developed Yamaha DT1 powered racer and gapped me a bit, but I reeled him in and was able to pass for the win. Sat. night a cold front came through and it was 30 degrees colder Sun. than Fri. or Sat. We were warned that the track got slippery in these conditions and, for that reason, I skipped the first round of practice Sun. morn. I did 3 laps on the Dondo, and it seemed fine. Then I went out on the H-D and on the first lap, instantly lost the front end in a quick right. I tumbled a good deal, but the bike didn't and wasn't in bad shape; didn't even break the windscreen. I had to clean a lot of dirt and replace the throttle cable, but was able to kick it straight for the race. First I was out on the Dondo and this time, Ryan blew the start when he missed the 1st to 2nd shift, and I grabbed the lead. On the 2nd lap, Alex with Ryan in tow, came by, but I got them both back in traffic. Ryan then gathered it up and disappeared in the distance. Alex and I went back a forth a bit before he slowly crept away. Again I was 3rd, but we put on a good show. I was very tentative in the 350gp having crashed in practice and Germain again gapped me. After a few laps, I was picking it up and closing on him. Then I saw a few raindrops on my faceshield and I backed right out of it. That same lap, Germain crashed exactly where I had. He was far enough ahead for me to have time to slow right down, but I still tucked the front end, though I was able to save it. Then someone else crashed in that corner and they red flagged the race. Scoring reverted to the previous lap, so Paul won it, but at a great cost as he broke his thumb and pinky and had a deep gash on his right hand.
I got back home Tues. night and the next day decide to race at Summit Point, W.Va. in a WERA race that weekend. At first I thought I wouldn't race the H-D Aermacchi as I had some crash damage to repair and my front tire was very worn. But, then I realize I had a new front tire and took it with the two bikes on Fri. to Summit. I did a practice on the Dondo and it seemed fine, but didn't get the 350 out what with changing the tire and gearing during practice. It showered some and the track had plenty of wet patches when we started the 500gp race on the Dondo. I worked my way into the class lead but then Rich Midgely came by on his CB 350 Honda. I was definitely sliding on my skinny 21" tires in the wet and Rich had the advantage there, but I had motor on him and we went back and forth many times. He dove under me into the final turn and held me off for the class win. Good stuff. It rained some more before the 350gp and I went out on a very wet track with a front tire that hadn't turned a lap. I tiptoed around initially, but started to gain some confidence and worked my way into the overall lead. Then, on the 6th of 8 laps, I tucked the front end and fell on the same side as at Tx. But, this was a much slower corner and, again, I didn't break the windscreen. Midgely inherited the lead and copped another win.
I've had a couple of weeks to catch my breath, then Wed. I fly to LAX to race at Willow Springs on the weekend. There I'm racing Mike Bungay's 350 Aermacchi along side Ari Henning on another of Bungay's Aermacchis. I'm also racing Gary Roper's (we haven't figured out how we're related, if at all) 1951 Velocette MAC.

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