Saturday, June 29, 2013

From Road America, we went to Chicago to stay with old friends from college days.  One of the high points of my stay in Chicago in the week between Rd. Am. and Grattan is the rotating garage party that the member of ChiVinMoto put on.  For this week, it was at Ken Kales Sports Car Store, not far from where I was staying.  A friend pointed out that I had met Ken a few years before at Road America.  I called Ken and asked if there was any chance I could work on my race bikes at his shop and he said 'no problem'.  So, Tues., I set up there.  While Ken works on sports cars (specializing in Alfa and MG) and has raced them, he's definitely a bike guy and his man Alex was working on a scooter when I got there.
My Moto Guzzi Dondolino had broken the last time I raced it, in May at Loudon, N.H.  It has roller rocker cam followers and a roller spindle had broken, allowing the roller to fall to the bottom of the timing case and the rocker to bear directly on the cam lobe, galling it.

  As luck would have it, a friend in California had a Dondolino cam sitting on his shelf that he didn't need.  What are the chances of that?  He sent me the cam and two rocker assemblies and they arrive just before I left for the Midwest.  The rockers he sent me had been modified and the bushes had been replaced with needle bearings.  The bushes were 13mm I.D., but the needle bearings were 1/2" I.D., so a ground down rocker spindle was included.  This meant that I had to make a little shim 0.004-5" thick, so the spindle wasn't sloppy in the case.  I got it assembled, but when I went to put the rocker box on the head, it wanted to open the valves even though I had the adjusters backed all the way off.  After much head scratching, I finally realize that these roller rockers were for a Falcone and were different than Dondolino because a Falcone has enclosed valve gear.  I had brought a new set of reproduction Dondolino rockers with me, but they didn't have rollers or spindles.  So, I had to press the spindles out of the Falcone rockers and take those rollers and spindles and press them into the Dondolino rockers.  Except it wasn't as simple as that because the spindles had be peened or swedged and had to be relieved and the holes in the Dondo rocker had to be opened up, then the rollers offered up and the spindles pressed in then swedged.  This involve a lot of fiddling and Ken was a huge help in this with his shop facilities and a lot of good ideas. Wed. afternoon I finally got it buttoned up and we fired the bike up outside his shop and it sounded good.  I got my van loaded up before the big thunderstorm, which included hail, that was just tapering off as the garage party was to start.  The storm may have scared some of the lightweights away, but there was still a good turnout and we enjoyed Ken's beer boiled and barbecued brats.
Thurs. morning I headed to Michigan and visited Buck and Constance Boudeman.  Buck is the owner of the 1896 Sylvester Roper steamcycle, as well as a big collection of Stanley Steamers and Miller race cars.  Constance is the great grand daughter of one of the Stanley brothers (F.O., I believe) and she and Buck met through steam.  Buck got the Roper steamcycle by trading Coburn Benson a Stanley Steamer for it.  When Buck got it, he powered it up with compressed air and everything worked.  He was afraid to fire up the boiler as it's old and light weight.  Now he's decided that he wants to get it running and has asked me to ride it (I'm Sylvester's 2nd cousin, four times removed).  We're looking into non-destructive testing of the boiler now.  This will certainly have to wait until Buck gets back from taking his Miller 'Golden Submarine' race car to Goodwood.
From Buck's, I drove to Grattan.  Fri. I just puttered, changing the gearing on the Dondolino, then warming it up and re-torqueing everything.  I did a little crude body work on the ERTT.
I patched the hole in the fairing where it slid on the tach drive.
Both bikes worked well in practice and I didn't have to change anything.
I got the jump on Alex Mclean on Bob McKeevers rigid, cammy Norton, as I often do, I suspect because I have a lower first gear.  Alex came by just before we got the last lap flag, and I was surprised that he didn't have that much speed on me down the straight.  But, he still manage to put a bit of a gap on me before we got the Checkered flag.  I suspect the main advantage he has over the Dondolino is fatter 19" tires as opposed to my very skinny 21" front and rear.  He also has a hydraulic damper on his girder fork, when as I just have the friction dampers.
Hydraulic damper on the McKeever Norton
On the other hand, I have rear suspension, whereas his bike is rigid.  Whether that's an advantage is debatable.

McKeever's pre 40/Class C bike in the foreground and Classic 60's bike behind

Despite the big scoop, Alex says it doesn't have much brake
The classic Norton motor

The 350gp again ran with F-750 and 750 Sportsman.  I got the jump on Paul Germain's DT-1 Yamaha, which is unusual as in this class, I have the taller 1st gear.  I was able to get by Mike Dixon's XS650 Yamaha in the first lap chaos and could close right up on an entertaining battle between Kenny Cummings on his 750 Seeley Norton and Bob Newby on his RD 400 Yamaha based racer in 'the bowl' each lap, but then they'd pull away again.  I ended up 6th overall.  
We had heavy rain over night and the track was very wet for Sun. morning practice.  The sun came out and it got hot, but in several spots water continued to stream across the track for most of the day.  Sunday's races went much the same for me as Sat.  I again led the Class C race on the Dondo for several laps, though Alex came by sooner than Sat. and, just before the last lap, David Bourbeau came by on his tank shift H-D and I was not able to pass him back.  This may represent the first time and tank shifter has finished ahead of the Dondolino when it's been running right.  Bourbeau was impressive.
Sun., Germain did beat me off the line, but I passed him going into turn #1 and didn't see him again.  Going over the jump on the 1st lap (or was it the 2nd?), I locked the front brake landing and went into a tankslapper and some how kicked my right footrest up.  It took me a couples of corners to finally get the footrest down and be able to downshift twice to get in the proper gear.  Several people came by during this including Stu Carter on his Seeley AJS 7R.  When I got organized again, I was able to get Stu back and he finished 2nd in 350gp for the second day.  Sun., I was chasing Mike Dixon rather than the other way around, and I finished 5th overall.
That's Stu Carter on the left behind his Seeley AJS 7R with Francis Ganance or the right
Sunday's win in the 350gp class meant I cinched the class championship I believe, as I've won 10 of the 12 races held so far this year (with one 2nd and one crash), and there are only 8 races left.  This may speak less of my brilliance than the state of the competition theses days.  For one thing, Bruce Yoximer isn't racing this year, and he always gave me a good run.  And generally, entries are down from the glory days of years back.  But, I'm still having fun and intend to carry in this perhaps slowing dying sport.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fred Sahms just sent me four more photos from Road America June 8th, 2013

That's Daryl Foster on his XS 650 Yamaha behind me
Big D's 1951 Triumph
This bike won the AHRMA Class C foot shift championship last year in the hands of Ryan Ambrose

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I recently got back from my annual pilgrimage to Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wi. and Grattan, Mi. with a stay with friends in Chicago in between.  While my Moto Guzzi Dondolino had broken at Loudon in May, the parts to fix it arrived just before I left for Rd. Am., so I threw it in the van with my 350 H-D Sprint.  I wasn't actually planning to race the Dondo at Rd. Am. as Keith Martin at Big D Cycles had asked me if I'd like to ride his Class C Triumph there.  Of course I would, as the bike had been impressively fast last year in the hands of Ryan Ambrose.  Ryan is pursuing a modern bike championship on a 675 Triumph in the CRMA this year, so the Class C bike was available.  The Triumph is a pre-unit 500 with telescopic forks and rigid rear end from 1951.

I went out for practice on it first and was just starting to get used to it when it stopped.  A bolt that secures the stator had backed out and Keith had to re-tap the hole in the case bigger.
While he was doing that, I went out on ERTT.  On the fourth lap I was following a Suzuki four Vintage Superbike.  Exiting the carousel, I saw a huge cloud of smoke come out of it when the #2 conrod came through the front of the motor and I was down instantly on the oil it threw out.  I tumbled some but it seemed my bike just slid on it's right side.  I was a bit beat up, but not too bad, though I did go to the Aid station to have a gash in my left hand cleaned up.  The bike wasn't too bad either: broken windscreen, puncture in the fuel tank, broken front brake cable, and broken shift lever, and a little dirt in the carb.  It had slid on the tach drive and that was wiped out.  Fortunately, my friend Phyllis had come to the event and we set about cleaning and patching it up to get it ready for the race, one of the later ones.  

Darleen Drehmel photos
I went out on the Big D Triumph for the 2nd round of practice and was getting into it when it stopped shifting after a few laps.  A pin had fallen out of the selector and it was a pretty easy fix for Keith and we were ready for the race.  I got a decent start as was quickly building a good lead as the bike is really fast.  Keith warned me that the brake weren't so hot, but I thought they were good.  The bike jumps around a bit when you wind on the power, but it was predictable. The lead was for naught as on the 3rd lap we got a red flag.
Saturday's Class C race was red flagged and we're exiting the track at turn #5  Darleen Drehmel photo
We restarted, but on the warm-up lap, the Triumph died again.  When Keith replaced the stator bolt, he hadn't realize there was supposed to be a spacer between the stator and crankcase. So the stator was cocked and the rotor was hitting it and it finally gave up.
Back to work on the ERTT. Randy Illg of Framecrafters welded the shifter.  We patched the fuel tank with epoxy putty, cleaned the carb, and re-soldered the front brake cable.  I started the race with no windscreen and no tachometer.
Darleen Drehmel photo

This is the warm-up lap of the F750/750 Sportsman/350gp race.  I'm following Kenny Cummings' Seeley 750 Norton probably out of the chicane.  Kenny had a mechanical DNF in the race.  Fred Sahms photo
I went back and forth with Jack Parker on his DT-1 Yamaha a bit before I was able to pull away and win the 350gp and finish 6th overall behind one Formula 750 and four 750 Sportsman bikes.  Keith Martin's son Jerrett was third over all, 2nd in class, and had the fastest lap in the race, but was just beat out by Jeff Hargis in a photo finish.
For Sunday, Keith took the old school magneto off another of his Triumphs and got rid of that new fangled electronic hocus pocus and the bike ran just as well in practice.  There was a shower in the morning, but it stopped before the first race.  On the warm-up lap, I saw the track was still damp.  In turn #6, while trying to take a big sweeping arc to not load the tires too much, I ran too wide at the exit and just caught the painted rumble strip and the bike snapped sideways and spit me over the highside.  I felt like a complete idiot, crashing on the warm-up lap on a bike that should have won after Keith had put in so much work on it.  It banged up the fuel tank and right exhaust, shift lever and throttle.

Sorry Keith
The crash didn't do me any good either, esp. my chronic right ankle but, as I always say, the best thing for what ever ails you, is to get on a race bike.
Jason Roberts gave me one of his old cracked windscreens and we fitted it to the ERTT.  

The bike had misfired a few times in practice so I checked the points and valve clearance and charged the battery.
Again, I had a bit of a tussle with Jack Parker's quick starting DT-1 Yamaha before I was able to clear off with my bike running well.  But, as the race wore on, I again had a bit of misfire.  Then, on the last lap, the motor cut right out and Pete Beyer, on his XS 650 Yamaha came by.  The motor started running again then cut out again.  I was wondering if I was going to finish.  It cut out a third time and I crossed the finish line with a dead engine, but won the 350gp again and again 6th overall behind the 750s.  The motor came back again, then cut out for good on the cool off lap.  When I got back to the pits, I found my fuel tank was empty.
So, it was a weekend of ups and downs with two wins and two crashes, in one of which I was an innocent victim, the other was completely pilot error .  I was feeling pretty beat up but I had plenty of work to do to get ready for Grattan the next weekend.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sat. I raced at Summit Point, W. Va., at a WERA vintage event.  I had planned to race the Dondolino there but, when I broke it at Loudon three weeks ago, I put out the call.  Joe Traino answered the call and offered me a ride on his XL350 Honda in a CB350 chassis.

This is a bike built by Stan Lipert back in 1995, a vintage vintage bike.  Stan is someone I have great respect for both as a rider and tuner,  so I gratefully accepted the offer.   The motor is from 1974 and is derived from the '72 XL250, which was Honda's first 4 valve per cyl. production motor.

Being a singles kind of guy, I was curious to see how it would compare to a CB350 with the twin cyl. CB350 motor.
There was quite a light turnout of modern bikes (maybe there were scared off by the mid 90's heat), but a decent vintage entry.  Only two of the vintage bikes were not Japanese: a 750 Triumph and Steve D'Angelo's 250 Ducati.  The vast majority of the bikes were CB350/360 Hondas, with a few RD/RZ 350/400 Yamahas, a XT500 Yam, and an H2 Kawasaki.
The XL 350 bump started very easily and I went out in the first practice to get familiar and check out the older Avon tires on the bike.   I wasn't too impressed by the front brake (450 Honda), but other wise the bike was good with decent handling, tons of ground clearance, and a torquey motor.  The broad power band and relatively wide gearbox ratios meant I didn't shift it much.
This must be practice. I'm followed by Rich Midgely (461))and Steve D'Angelo(507), or could Rich and I be lapping Steve's 250 Ducati?  Photo by George Roulson
The first practice was red flagged after 3 laps, so I was just starting to get the feel for the bike.  I got more laps in the 2nd practice and started to gain confidence in the tires, which were of an indeterminate age.  But, we checked the tire pressure when I got back in and there was 17psi. in the rear.  Did Joe just misread the gauge when he set it or did we have a leak?  We pumped it up and kept checking it before my first race, #7 which was actually the 5th race of the day because of combined/canceled races due to the light modern turnout.  It seems we did have a slow leak, but not something that would be a problem for an 8 lap race and pumped it up to 33psi.
I was on the pole in V2 with 500gp and 250gp gridded behind me.  I didn't do the best start, letting out the clutch too quickly and bogging and wheelie-ing slightly.  Rich Oldakowski shot by on his XT 500 Yamaha and I chased him the first lap.  But, just starting the 2nd lap, he raised his hand and pulled off.  He suspected his coil died.  It's doubtful that I would have been able to keep up with Rich but, with him gone, I took the win overall.
George Roulson photo
We checked the tire again when I came in and it was 35psi.  I have to confess that I didn't really feel any difference between 17 and 35psi.
There was one race before the last race.  Formula 500 was gridded first; I was on the 5th row in V1 with 350gp gridded behind.  I got a better start this time and followed Richard Lucas on his RD 400 Yamaha down to turn #1.  I out braked his disc brake with my drum brake and slipped underneath him into the corner.  I had discovered that my brake wasn't too bad with more use and squeezing really hard.  I figured that Richard would come back by down the straight with his bigger two stroke engine, but I didn't see him again and I was overall winner once more.
leading Richard Lucas #345, RD 400 Yamaha.  George Roulson photo
WERA does almost all of their vintage races on Sat., with only the newest/biggest 'vintage' race on Sun.  So, Sun. was a day off for me and I took a bicycle ride with my friend Ellen in the morning.  First, we checked out all the facilities at the track.  There are now four circuits there.  In addition to the one I've always raced on (since 1972), there is the Jefferson and Shenandoah circuits, which both had auto track days going on, and a go-kart circuit.  I was impressed that they had refurbished the old restroom and brought it up to the excellent standard of the newer restroom/shower.  The track gets used a lot and hard and has had a reputation of being slippery and bumpy, but I found it in very good repair.
We left the circuit and bicycled many miles away and I was impressed by how far away one could hear the bikes practicing.  We chatted with a local fellow in 'downtown' Summit Point who had worked for the State Department training drivers at the circuit.  I asked him if the community 'got along' with the race track and he said it did.  The race track was there first and treated the community well and people accepted it.  This was reassuring as the houses have definitely moved closer and closer over the years.  It's a big operation and clearly a big part of the local economy.