Saturday, September 14, 2013

Another interesting original bike competing at The Classic TT was the TZ 700 Yamaha that Jack Findlay had used to win the Formula 750 Championship in 1975.

 I was told the bike was exactly as Findlay last raced it with the exception of the rear shocks.  Australian Findlay was based in Italy at that time working with Daniele Fontana and the bike has all the modification they made to it which include the brakes, the exh. pipes, and the rear suspension.
Magnesium hubs front and rear

The frame was modified to lay down the shocks.  The exh. pipes were made by Fontana, also, though I suspect not with that nasty kink at the stinger
 Ridden by newcomer Noel Heenan, it didn't make the race, presumably because it failed to qualify.

One TZ 750 Yamaha that did qualify was ridden by my friend Dave Crussell.  Dave is an ex-pat Brit who lives in California and races regularly with AHRMA, but also all over the world.  Dave was making his second appearance at the IOM having raced in two classes at the MGP last year.  For 2013 he had two bikes also: a Kawasaki A1R for the 250 Classic TT and the TZ 750  for the Formula 1 Classic TT.  He had a lot of gearbox trouble with the A1R and Sat. evening Dave's wife, Lorraine  (a great racer in her own right), asked me to take Dave's ZX10 road bike to retrieve him at the Glen Helen Hotel where he had broken down.  In the end, Dave didn't race the A1R as that race was Mon. morning before the afternoon F-1 race.  If he broke down in the 250 race, he could be trapped out on the course and not make the F-1 race.  It was probably a wise decision as he had a great race in the F-1, finishing 16th, 3rd TZ 750 (behind Mark Miller, fastest American ever around the TT course) and on his final lap did 107.554 mph for a race average of 103.483mph.

I ran into Bruce Verdon, proprietor of TT Industries, manufacturers of superb gearboxes, on Tues.  I had gotten to know Bruce a bit in 2011 when he came to Barber with a bunch of fellow New Zealanders.  We got to chatting and I happened to mention that I had race Alan Blands 850 BSA Triple  at a B.E.A.Rs meeting at Ruapuna on the South Island of N.Z. near Christchurch in 1990.  Bruce informed me that that BSA was here at the Classic TT and, though Alan Bland no longer owned the bike, he was on the Island, too.  I found the bike before I found Alan and it was slightly different than when I raced it almost 23 years before, but only slightly.  The frame was nickel plated now, it had different forks on it, a bigger fuel tank and it had a TT Industries 6 speed gearbox, but it still had the dent in the down tube from when Hugh Anderson had crashed it.

This bike also didn't make the race as it's rider, newcomer Doug Fairbrother, crashed in practice and broke his collarbone.  I finally did run into Alan Bland, who I had seen a couple of times at Daytona in the intervening years, and we had a good catch up.  He told me the bike didn't make out bad in the crash and, while a broken collarbone is not what anyone had hoped for, Fairbrother hadn't made out that bad for a TT crash.

Friday was Signing on, Scrutineering, and Rider's briefing for the Lap of Honor Parade.
My friend and MGP veteran, Dean de St. Croix pushing the AJS 7R3 to Scrutineering
 As the briefing was breaking up, I got a chance to talk to another Kiwi, Bruce Anstey. 7 time TT winner and I believe currently the third fastest rider to lap the Mountain Circuit.  Bruce was racing a classic for the first time, Ken McIntosh's 500 Manx Norton.  Of all the bikes the top runners were on, this Manx, while a replica, was most faithful to the original specs.  Original bore and stroke, original GP carb, original gauge frame tubing and an original drum front brake.  At that point Bruce was the fastest single in the 500 class in practice.  I asked him if that was in spite of, or because of, the bike's originality.  He couldn't answer that, because this was the first classic he had ridden, but he said it handled superbly and, with it's lower speed than the modern bikes, he was able to be extremely precise with his lines and found that very satisfying.  I asked how he found the drum brakes and he would just give them an 'OK'.

Sat. was the 500 Classic race and my friend Paul Barrett, the fellow who first taught me the Mountain Circuit when he arranged a ride for me in the 1982 F-3 TT on one of his 350 Aermacchis and who now lives on the IOM, picked me up on his Suzuki SV 650 (which he had bought in the U.S. when he lived in Washington, D.C.) and we had a fabulous ride through the middle of the Island to a remote spot where we walked through a couple of fields to spectate just past Handley's Bend.  Olie Linsdell dominated the race on a Paton replica.  Anstey was again the fastest single on McIntosh's Manx, until it broke and he didn't finish.
a house opposite where we spectated for the 500 Classic TT
Looking down the Circuit towards 'McGuiness' corner
Looking back up toward Handley's  Bend
This is one of the appeals of spectating at the IOM as there are an unlimited number of new places to go, often incredibly beautiful, and where you can get really close to really fast racers.
After the 500 race, we rode back to the paddock and checked out the bike assembling for the VMCC parade of the Mountain Circuit.  This was the parade that friends Jamie Waters, Bob Goodpaster, Jon Schultz and Nigel Smallbone were in.  And there were a number of other impressive bikes and characters in it.  Paul and I had the honor of talking with Piero Laverda, the former head of the company that bore his name.  He was riding the one and only V-6 endurance racer and he told us it's whole story.  The V-6 was to be a Sports Touring bike  Laverda figured taking the prototype racing would be a way to accelerate development.  It's almost not accurate to call it a racer, as the motor was very docile and still had it electric starter and huge battery contributing to the bike's considerable weight.  But, chassis development was to come later; this bike was to test the engine.  This bike had done several endurance races, thousands of kms on the road before the plug was pulled on the project and the company was sold.  Piero couldn't take to the track when he was leading the company, but now  that the name was sold and he was retired, he paraded the bike regularly and it was still on all of it's original components.  Piero was clearly enjoying himself and proud of what his family had done.  It was a real treat speaking with him.
Here are a few of the other bikes in the VMCC parade:

A flat tank Sunbeam and a V-4 two stroke Jawa

Mick Grant's first race bike, a 500 Velo.  This bike lived in British Columbia many years and I help him buy it back, but then he sold it in a weak moment and has been kicking himself ever since.
A J.A.P powered special with twin magnetoes
On Sunday, we participated in the Jurby Festival.  Jurby is a village in the north of the Island where there is a disused WWII airfield.  Ever since the war, racers have gone there to test and check their jetting before the race.  More recently, they've laid down asphalt to make a proper short circuit and they hold club races there.  For the last several years, the Jurby Festival has been a celebration of the classic bikes with displays of old bikes and cars and parade laps for the bikes.  The bikes were divided into eight groups  and each group got two rounds of lapping for 15-20 minutes.  I was in the Lap of Honour group, riding a bike that was a good ten years older than any other bike in the group and probably 55 years older than some.  The AJS 7R3 was running great and what an honor it was to be lapping with Freddie Spencer on an RS500 Honda, Giacomo Agostini on a 500 MV three, Phil Read on a RG 500 Suzuki, Mick Grant also on a RG 500, Conner Cummings on the bike that Kenny Roberts Jr. won the 500 World Championship, a RGV Suzuki, and Kel Caruthers on probably the next oldest bike in the group a 250 Benelli Four like he used to win the 250 World Championship in 1969.  Bruce Anstey passed me on the rear wheel of a Brittan.  Old as the 7R3 was, I wasn't lapping the slowest by any means.  In the second session, after a while Phil Read came by on the RG 500 Suzuki, but he was short cutting the chicane, blowing straight through it rather than going around.  I dogged him several laps, doing the right thing in the chicane while he went straight through.  Finally, he cracked under the pressure and ran off the course.  It was a beautiful day and there was a huge crowd and I ran into some old buddies as well as getting to smooze with the stars.
That evening, we had a Lap of Honour dinner back at the paddock.  Neil Hodgson, former World Superbike Champion and current IOM resident, was the M.C.  Neil had lived and raced in the U.S. a few years and he had become friendly with my friend, Henny Ray Abrams.  We commiserated about Henny's sudden passing six months before and told Henny stories.  Neil happen to mention what a horrible circuit Jurby was and I said I thought it wasn't bad and flowed nicely.  But, it's so bumpy, Neil said.  Later, Mick Grant said the same thing.  I told them both to 'buck up; this is Road Racing'.  To be fair, they didn't have the advantage of 'Jampot' rear shocks like I did.  Neil introduced each one of us and gave a short list of accomplishments, some much shorter than others.  Again, it was a great honor, but slightly embarrassing to be grouped with all these TT stars and World Champions.  Neil did a great job and could pass as a stand up comic.
Monday started with the 350/250 Classic race, which I didn't get to watch and we were out on the Lap Of Honour immediately following.  Again, what a collection of great bikes and riders.  We chatted with a fellow from Audi who was in charge of a reproduction of a 1935 DKW blown 250.

Audi, owners of the DKW name, were going to make a '36 DKW racer next year, and a '37 the next, and '38, the next and finally a 39 racer in 2017.  Apparently all the drawings were lost in the war and it was quite a forensic job to recreate the bikes.  Ralf Waldman, twice runner up in the 250 World Championship, was riding the bike.
I was #20 and everyone in front of me was either a former World Champion or multiple TT winner except Waldman and Steve Parrish.  I was expecting that we would be sent off on our lap one at a time in order but, as we gathered on Glencrutchery Rd., someone all of a sudden said go and everyone took off.  It was chaos and it's a wonder that no one bumped into anyone else as we sped down Bray Hill.  After a while, things spread out a bit and I hooked up with a couple of bikes that were a little faster than the 7R3, but I was able to stay with them by charging a little harder.  The bike was running great, but was a bit undergeared and I had no trouble seeing 8000 rpm going into Greeba.  When we got on the Cronk-Y-Vody straight, it wasn't pulling as many revs, but I thought that maybe we were catching a headwind now that we were out in the open.  But, by the time I got to Handleys, I knew something wasn't right.  I clutched it and it kept running, but didn't seem happy and I shut it down and coasted through Bargarrow.  The Marshalls directed me in a gate  between bottom of Bargarrow and the 13th milestone, Carmall Farms.

1 comment:

  1. Mr Roper, thank you for taking the time to pose for a photo with me at Jurby, sorry to take up so much of your time, great to meet up with you after so long, i can remember talking to you at darley moor many years ago when you were [i think,riding the the george silk two-strokes?] do you have any photo's from back then by any chance? best wishes to you, tim.