Wed. midday we drove down to Sonoma Raceway (it will always be Sears Point to me) to get set up and teched. I first raced at Sears in 1978 (1979?) on George Vincensi's 900 bevel drive Ducati in the AMA Superbike race (I crashed out). I last raced at Sears in 1997, winning the 350gp race both days on a Team Obsolete AJS 7R. This years race was Thurs. and Fri., as the AFM had modern bike racing on the weekend.
In addition to Mike's 350 Aermacchi that I raced at Willow, I was racing Gary Roper's '51 350 Velocette MAC in Class 'C'. I decided that I couldn't race Sam Yamazaki's DT-1 at Sears as I was 'bumping up' the Aermacchi to the 500 Premiere Class in addition to the 350gp and that three races a day was enough for this broken old man. My friend Kenny Cummings (www.nycnorton.com) flew out to race Ron Halem's Goldstar in the 500 Premiere class and I wanted to at least harass him. Kenny told me that our friend Jack Parker had flow out from Knoxville, Tn. to ride Dave Pierce's 250 Canam, but a close friend of Dave's had just died and he wasn't coming. This left Jack without a ride. I was able to hook Jack up with Sam Yamazaki. Jack had met Sam maybe ten years ago at Mid-Ohio before he (Jack) had started to race. Jack was really taken by Sam's DT-1 race bike, took many photos of it, and it was his inspiration to build his own and start racing. Now he was getting a chance to race the very bike that got him into it.
The track had changed some since I last raced there with a chicane in turns #1 and #9 and with the run to turn #11 being shorter. Chicanes often ruin a racetrack and the old track probably flowed better but probably was a good deal more dangerous. And, I didn't think these chicanes were bad.
In Thurs. morning practice, the Velo was good right off the bat, but the 'Macchi's clutch was slipping. Mike figured out the problem and in the 2nd practice it worked fine until I finished and stopped for 'hot tech'. When I left, the clutch slipped again. Mike took the clutch apart again and with a change of spacers, fixed it for good.
|Mike Bungay fixing the clutch on his fantastic 350 Aermacchi|
I was out in the first race on the Velo, gridded in the second wave behind the 350 Sportsman class with the CB160 LeMans start class in the first wave. I nailed the start and left Fred Mork's Garden Gate Norton and Ted Van Dorn's G-80 Matchless and Ralph Wessel's Indian from Class 'C' and picked off a few 350 Sportsman and 160 Honda's from the first wave, finishing 12th overall from the 21 starters. During the race, I decided the Velo was undergeared and would pull something taller. So, Gary geared it up after the race, changing both secondary sprockets.
|Gary Roper on the left and his son Jon on the right changing the gearing on the '51 Velo MAC|
Next race for me was the 500 Premiere. We were gridded behind Bears and ahead of 500gp and Middle Weight Superbike, but all starting in one wave. I got a good start and within a couple of corners I was 3rd overall behind Ivan Messina's 750 BMW (leading Bears) and Mike Gilkey, Ivan's protege, leading MW Superbike on a 850 BMW (a R65 with a big bore). I got by Ivan and set out after Mike. I understand that Mike is an AMA pro dirt tracker who met Ivan when he move near him. Ivan introduced him to roadracing and built him a motor. This was Mike 3rd ever road race event, but he had clearly got the hang of it. I was close to him, but couldn't see a way I was going to get by when he broke near the end of the race. So, I won the race overall, on the bike with the smallest engine displacement in the race
The last race of the day had 350 gridded behind BOT F3 (largely SV 650 Suzukis), Motard, and Formula Vintage. It took me a while to get by a well ridden Triumph Thruxton which put me in 4th overall behind three SV 650s ( the 2nd ridden by former World Speedway champion, Billy Hamil).
I had been concerned about the rear tire on the Aermacchi as it was the soft (front) compound and was getting pretty worn and sliding a bit. I considered changing it for a slightly used harder tire we had with us, but I won my class by such huge margins in both races that I decided to leave it for Fri. and use it up.
The Velo was good in Fri. practice with the taller gearing, but the Aermacchi had a slipping clutch again. This time, it just turned out to be a free play issue.
In Fri.'s 1st race, they held the 2nd wave longer than Thurs., so I ended up one place further back overall in 13th, but went more than 2 seconds faster on my fastest lap with the taller gearing. My 1st race on the Aermacchi went much like Thursday's, but this time Mike Gilkey, on the middleweight Superbike BMW, didn't break, so I ended up 2nd overall. My fastest lap was almost 1.5 seconds faster than on Thurs. and was slightly faster than Gilkey's, but I just didn't have enough of them. By the time the last race came around, my rear tire was shagged. I had to be very careful rolling on the throttle out of corners and again it took a long time to get by that Triumph Thruxton and this time I was 5th over all with Mike Blankenship ahead of me on his KTM Motard in addition to the three SV 650s.
All together, a very successful meeting: six starts and six wins; the double Trifecta.
Some of my competition:
|Ron Halem's 500 Goldstar which Kenny Cummings rode in 500 Premiere|
|Tom Marqurdt's Yetman CB77 based 380cc Premiere bike which Tim Sheedy rode.|
|Tom has extensively reinforced the Yetman frame|
|the 380cc CB77|
|this Honda Revival 4LS front brake gave them problems|
|Tom also had a 350cc CB77 at Sears which Tim Mings rode in 350gp|
|an immaculate '69 H-1 at Sears|
|the fastest H-1 with the worst handling and worst brakes; what's not to like?|
|Three V-twins: an 1140cc flathead Royal Enfield, a Moto Morini 3 1/2, and an XR1000 H-D|