Friday, October 21, 2011

7-9 Oct., 2011 it was down to Leeds, Alabama for the Barber Vintage festival, the biggest vintage event in North America.
Let me get the 'name dropping' out of the way right off the bat.
Here I am telling Paul Smart how it is.
Paul Pace photo

Buff Harsh photo
And here I am about to show Kevin Schwantz the way to get around the race track. I'm riding Ken Rosevere's Geoff Monty Special replica Goldstar and Kevin is on Ken McIntosh's Norton Manx. This bike came from New Zealand with a contingent of fast Kiwis. There were also a few Aussies, Dutchmen and Brits making a truly international event. Much credit for this goes to Jamie Waters who's hard work and sponsorship made for the best 500 Premiere grid in years, if not ever. Because of the large number of foreign riders who had no points with AHRMA, the normal grid placement based on points was replaced with a 'Superpole' type qualifying: one warm-up lap, one timed lap, and one cool-down/in lap. This was great fun, though Sat. I screwed it up, running wide at the chicane onto the grass and I had to momentarily back out of the throttle. As it turned out, this wasn't a handicap as the two people who were supposed to grid in front of me weren't there, and I got a good start while others were balked. This allowed me to hold off the hordes for a little while, and a couple of people augered in on the first couple of laps. First Niek Leeuwis on a Seeley Goldstar came by, then John Cronshaw on his Goldstar. John was distracted by a debris flag in turn#1 and I was able to get back by him. A little over a lap later, John came back by with Robert McClendon on the Herb Becker prepared Seeley Norton 500 twin. They both had a little motor on me and started pulling away, but then the twin broke a valve and was out. Todd Puckett, on Jamie Water's ex-Bruce Yoximer Seeley G-50, stuck a wheel in on me, but I backed him down. Then, apparently the plug came out of his float bowl and he retired. So, I ended up 6th behind Schwantz and Pat Mooney on Manx's, Dave Cole on a Norton ES-2(!!!), Leeuwis, and Cronshaw. Four pushrod motors in the first six.

I was also riding Mike Bungay's 350 Aermacchi. This is a bike I've ridden several times out west as it's based in Sacramento with Mike. Mike got it as an unfinished project many years ago and it's been an ongoing development project. It has a one-off trellis frame (that's been mistaken for TT-1/2 Ducati, but isn't) and a street based motor that Mike's done extensive development with Karl Engellenner of Motorcycle Machining Specialties, also in Sacramento. I brought my own 350 ERTT Sprint and, in practice, I went a bit faster on my own bike than Mike's. I also crashed Mike's bike in Fri. practice when I spun it out in the turn #5 hairpin. I was unhurt and there was only minor damage to the bike. But, based on the times, it looked like I had a good shot at the win on his bike and we changed the gearing and I rode that in the 350gp race. I led flag to flag and won fairly comfortably.
Sun. we had another 500 Premiere qualifying, which a lot of people weren't aware of, myself included, and several missed it entirely, including John Cronshaw.He was pissed off being gridded at the back and decided not to race. I did a little better and was gridded at the other end of the third row.
Me, Ari Henning, Bruce Verdon, and Wes Orloff on Sun.'s 500 Premere Grid. Paul Pace photo

Again, I got a reasonably good start and, after things settled down for a few laps, Ari Henning and Wes Orloff came by, both on 450 Honda based bikes. I was able to get back by them into Turn #1 and shortly after that, Wes' fairing came adrift and he had to retire.

Ari Henning leading me, Todd Puckett and Wes Orloff. Paul Pace photo

Ari was having a lot of chatter problems and the motor wasn't carbureting well coming off the corners (which turned out to be a loose needle) and he dropped back. Then, my old arch nemisis, Todd Puckett came by seeking revenge. After a short tussle he pulled ahead and I finished 6th again behind Schwantz, Tim Joyce, and Mooney on Manx's and Leeuwis (Seeley Goldstar)and Puckett(Seeley G-50).

Ari Henning, me, and Wes Orloff debriefing after Sun.'s 500 Premiere race. Buff Harsh photo

In Sun.'s 350gp race, I again got a big lead when, on the 7th of 8 laps, the motor made a bad noise and lost power. I clutched it immediately and coasted to a stop. I figured a valve train
failure, though it sounded a little like the sparkplug had blown out of the head. I rode back to the pits on the crash truck with Phil Turkington who had won the race on his Bultaco, then ran out of fuel on the cool off lap.
Examining the Aermacchi after we found it turned over fine, had good compression, and the sparkplug looked good. We took the rocker covers and carb off and found nothing wrong. So we put it back together and fired it up. It started right up and sounded fine. I rode it around the paddock for a while and revved it out in 1st gear and it seemed fine. A mystery. I wondered if I had hallucinated the whole incident ( there was some mold on the bread I made a sandwich with a few hours earlier). But, nearly a week later, I had dinner with Steve Maney and Martin Page and they told me they had been watching from the outside of turn#2, and they heard the noise and thought a valve must have dropped.

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