It rained over night and Sat. dawned very cold and extremely windy. The wind always blows at Willow, but often it's relatively calm in the morning with a NW wind developing in the afternoon. The plan had been for Mike to have a second 350 Sprint there for Walt Fulton III to ride, but he ran out of time and it didn't quite get finished. So Walt and I were sharing the bike, me riding it in 350GP and Walt in the 'bump-up' class, 500 Premiere.
|Jody Nicholas and Nancy Foote check out the Sprint|
When Walt was getting ready to go out for his first practice, Mike couldn't get the bike to fire. While they were trying to figure this out, I went out on the Brammo. I exited pit out and gently tipped it into turn #1 and the back end came around and I was down in an instant. I tried to pick up the bike but couldn't as it's 450 lbs. Practice had to be red flagged as the bike was nearly in the middle of the turn. I was fine and the bike not bad at all. It had frame and axle sliders on it which took the brunt of the crash. The forks were twisted a bit and I had to loosen up the lower yoke to get them to spring back. The shift lever was bent up and pushed into a plastic cover, but there seemed to be no damage underneath. I just bent the lever back in position.
After changing a bunch of electrical components, Mike got the Sprint running and Walt and I went out in the second round of practice. The Brammo was fine as was the Sprint, except that it was under geared. But, Mike had forgot to bring sprockets for the first time in his life, and we'd just have to live with it. Mike assured me it wouldn't hurt it to rev the piss out of it, which turned out to be the case, but I think we were definitely giving up speed.
|Mike, his son Brennen, and I thrash to get the bike ready for my 350GP race. Photo by Jack Weston|
I got a good start and led out of turn #1. On the 2nd lap, Jeff Elings on a TD-3 Yamaha, then Dave Crussell on a Kawasaki Bighorn came by from the F-250 class and slowly pulled away. Just before I took the white flag starting the last lap, when I tried to shift into 5th gear, I found the shift linkage had come apart. If you're going to be stuck in one gear at Willow, 4th gear is the one it should be. But, it was definitely bogging in the turn #4 Omega and I saw 8600 rpm before I had to look where I was going in turn #8. It held together and I had enough of a lead that I still won the class, 3rd overall.
Immediately following was the e-bike race, gridded behind Sound of Thunder and ahead of Formula Vintage and Sound of Singles 3, some heavy iron. There were four bikes in the e-bike class: Art Kowitz, the founder and sponsor of the class, with his tricked out Brammo; Ed Milich on Art's stock Brammo street bike; Jeff Clark on a Zero; and me on the supposedly race prepped Brammo.
Art told me the first two gears were stump pullers and to start in 3rd. This I did and got off not far behind Art. But, exiting turn #2, Art slowed and I went by. He had a mysterious power drop and backed out of it and let everyone go by then got on it again and it seemed to run alright. This gave me enough of a gap that I was able to win the class, though thankfully, we were lapped by three of the SOT bikes and Dave Crussell's F-Vintage KZ1000. I started the warmup lap with the batteries reading 100%, started the race at 91% and finished the cool down lap at 16%. My best lap was about 6.4 seconds slower than my best in the 350GP race on the Sprint.
Sunday started just about as cold and windy as Sat., but was sunnier. I passed on the first round of practice, but Walt did both on the Sprint. I took the Sprint out after Walt and on the lap I was planning to come in, it cut out momentarily before shutting off for turn one, but then ran alright. I took another lap and it did almost the identical thing and I pulled in. We eliminated the possibility that it was running out of fuel and after much searching, a wire off the stator was found to be pinched and making an intermittent disconnect. That must have been the reason it wouldn't start Sat. morn, too. That repaired, Walt went out for the 500 Premiere race and got a good start and actually lead the race for a while. He and Kenny Cummings, riding Ron Halem 500 BSA Goldstar went back a forth a bit before Walt started sliding with oil about.
|Walt Fulton III in the Omega before the oil leak got bad. Photo by Jack Weston|
He pulled off on the fourth lap with the bike covered in oil again. We found 4 of the 10 timing case screws missing and the other 6 loose. Once again, Walt had found a problem in time for us to fix it so I could get out in the 350GP race. Again, I led out of turn #1 for a little over a lap and once again first Jeff Elings then Dave Crussell came by on their F-250 bikes. But, this time I latched onto Crussell's 350 Kawasaki Bighorn and dogged him. I was getting a great draft off him and seeing big revs. I thought I had a little for him in the Omega but he was really good in turn #9. After taking the white flag, I dove under him in turn #1 and headed him to turn #7 when he came back by. I tried to draft him out of the last turn, but came up 0.16 seconds short. Great fun.
Again, immediately following, I rode the Brammo in the the e-bke race. This time, my old sparring partner, Zack Courts, rode Art's 'street bike' that Ed Milich rode Sat. Art evidently figured out the problem his bike had Sat. and he was gone with Zack in pursuit with me loosing ground. Not long after the half way flag, the end of my shifter broke off, apparently from damage from the Sat. morning crash. I was able to reach down and shift it into 6th by hand, then just left it there. Even though I went faster than on Sat., I was a distant 3rd, though scored 2nd because it seemed Zack's transponder didn't register one lap, which magically was twice a long as his others, and he was only credited with 7, not 8. But, trust me, he was well in front of me. And, even though I went faster on the Brammo Sun. than Sat., my fastest lap was more the 8 1/4 seconds faster on the Sprint. And, my fastest lap on the 350 Sprint was half a second faster than anyone went in the 500 Premiere race.
As usual, Yoshi put on a great concours and here's a sampling of some of the bikes in it:
From Willow, I drove with Mike to his house in Sacramento. Mon. we took the bike to Karl's and he checked over the motor and resealed everything. We found a problem with the rear brake which Mike and I sorted out Tues. Wed. we drove to Sonoma Raceway (still Sears Point to me), warmed up the bike to adjust the valves, and secured garage space.
|The Gary Roper '51 Velocette MAC|
|An elemental but bad-ass bike|
In the 350GP, I was never headed and finished more than half a minute in front of 2nd, my best lap almost 5 seconds quicker. The 500 Premiere was run with 500GP, Formula Vintage, Vintage Superbike Middleweight and Production Heavyweight. I was only passed by Dave Crussell on a TZ 750 Yamaha and he was the only one to turn a faster lap.
Walt's SOS 2 race was gridded with F-750/750 Sportsman and Motard. He finished 2nd in class against seriously bigger and newer singles, and 6th overall.
Friday went pretty much like Thursday. In the 250GP/Class 'C' race, I didn't have Lorraine to chase as apparently she got run off the track on the first lap. But, I did have another fast lady on a 200 Honda arch nemisis, Mica Grohn. I met Mica last summer at The Ridge in Shelton, Wa., and she impressed me then. I did finish ahead of her, in 8th overall again, but her last lap was less than one tenth of second slower than mine.
|My Class 'C' competition: Fred Mork's '38? Norton|
|More Class 'C' competition: Beno Rodi's early BSA Goldstar with 350GP competition in the backround: Mork's short stroke 350 Sprint ridden by Jim Neuenburg|
Again, I won the 350GP by more than half a minute and did so like wise in the 500 Premiere as Crussell didn't start on his TZ750, for some reason. Despite this (or because?), I turned my fastest lap of the two days and beat my time from last year. This was probably because Mike and Karl got the front brake working better for Fri.
|L to R:Karl Engellener, Walt Fulton, and Mike Bungay ponder how to make the Sprint even faster|
|Dave Crussel's 350 Bighorn that I chased at Willow|
|More of Crussell's stable: a KZ1000 and a TZ750 Yamaha, the only bike to pass me on Bungay's Sprint in the two days.|
|The KTM factory team there for the AHRMA races as practice for the 'Superbike Shootout' on the weekend|
Walt was 3rd SoS 2 on Fri., but 4th overall. Ari Henning put in an amazing ride on a CBR 250R Honda to finish 2nd SoS 2 and 2nd overall. He tells me the bike has stock forks with emulators, stock wheels and brakes (with uprated pads), an aftermarket rear shock, stock cam that's retimed, stock piston and a milled head. While giving away a lot to the winning 450 Kawasaki on the straights, Ari was demon on the brakes and cornering and several times got in the lead. I took great interest in this not only because Ari is a friend, but because I ride a CBR 250R on the street. It a very fun bike, but definitely built to a price and marketed as a 'entry level' bike, and it was jaw dropping to see how fast Ari went on his. The lad can ride.
It was another great meeting at Sonoma and Mike's Sprint is still the ultimate weapon there, in my mind.
|Tim Fowler, the founder of CB160 vintage racing, delivered an NSU Max to it new owner|