Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sonoma Raceway

From Willow Springs, I traveled with Kenny Cummings and we drove to my friend's house in Lompoc, while Karl and Mike headed back to Sacramento with the two crashed bikes.  Mon. morning, I ordered a new helmet first thing and Kenny got on the Bay Area Rider's Forum (BARF) and found someone who could repair our leathers quickly.  We got on the road late morning and drove to the San Francisco airport and picked up a rental car so Kenny could keep his Sprinter parked and he'd have a way to get to the Airport Sat. morning.  I followed Kenny to his in-law's house in Berkeley where we ditched the Sprinter and drove to Vallejo and dropped off our leathers with Richard Lee [(415)621-2738,], who promised them for Wed. afternoon.
Tues. morning we went into S.F. and visited Jennifer Bromme's Werk Statt motorcycle repair shop.  I first met Jennifer some years back when she was racing a CB160 with AHRMA.  Since she's become a mother, she's quit racing, but not riding.  She's run her motorcycle repair shop in San Francisco for more than 20 years and it's an impressive operation with three mechanics.  They do it all.  Among the bikes outside waiting to be serviced was an early 70's CS-3 Yamaha next to a 201X Ducati Hypermotard.  Jennifer showed Kenny some software that he thought would be helpful running his business, NYC Norton.
With Jennifer Bromme at WerkStatt.  Kenny Cummings photl
We left there and spotted a new 961 Norton in the window of the legendary Munroe Motors, who claim to be the oldest bike shop in S.F., so we had to park and check it out.  After checking out their operation, we drove to Fort Mason Center to meet Paul d'Oleans, the Vintagent, and his partner Susan McLaughlin at Greens Restaurant, which has a fabulous view over the Bay.  Paul was keen to do a portrait of Kenny and me with the 'wet plate' photography that he's become enamored with.  These are photos on a chemically treated aluminum plate that are given a relatively long exposure and developed immediately.  It's a process that goes back to the early days of photography.  After much discussion about what would be the best venue, it was agreed that we'd meet at an alley in the Mission district the next day after picking up John Thorndike, Kenny's employee and BEARS racer, at the S.F. airport and taking him to what Kenny considers the best burrito joint in the Bay Area, if not the world.
But, before going to the airport Wed., we visited Motion Pro in San Carlos, just south of the airport.  Motion Pro manufacture an amazing array of motorcycle specific tools.  I had gotten to know Rick Yamane, the majordomo at Motion Pro, through Moto Guzzis and he graciously gave us a tour.  A significant part of their business is making cables, both production and custom, and this was a fascinating section to observe.  One of Rick's primary responsibilities is maintaining Chris Carter's, owner of Motion Pro, personal collection of motorcycles.  The emphasis is on motocross and enduro bikes of the 60's and 70's and flattrackers, though there are road bikes too, going back to the teens.  Everywhere you look in the building are photos, posters, trophies, and memorabilia.  Who knew that Jim Rice road raced an A1-R Kawasaki and won the worlds tallest trophy?
With the "World's Tallest Trophy" at Motion Pro.  Kenny Cummings photo
Rick introduced us to Chris Carter, who is an ultra enthusiast.  In his office is a framed jersey signed by Joel Robert, the Belgium M/X World Champion, which Chris got in the late '60s from Robert after bugging him at each round of the Inter-Am when he was just a kid.
From Motion Pro, we went to the airport and picked John up and headed to Taqueria Cancun, then met Paul d'Orleans and Susan McLaughlin at an alley a few blocks down from the restaurant.  They picked this spot as there is very little traffic and very colorful background graffiti.
Paul d'Orleans takes a wet plate photo of me in an alley in S.F.'s Mission district.  Kenny Cummings photo
While they were shooting us, an elderly gentleman with a huge mop and beard came down the alley.   Paul and Susan said 'we've got to shoot him', and he couldn't agree more.  The guy was a '60s hippie who never left.  A delightful character and slice of local color.
Susan McLaughlin photo
Paul d'Orleans/Susan McLaughlin wetplate  photo
From the photo shoot, we went back to Berkeley, got the Sprinter and John and I drove to Sonoma Raceway, aka Sears Point, to get set up in a garage while Kenny drove to Vallejo to pick up the repaired leathers.
The AHRMA  racing there is on Thurs. and Fri., there being AFM modern bike racing on the weekend.
Gary Roper had had very little to do on the Velo, just adjusting chains and clutch.  Mike and Karl, on the other hand, had worked flat out straightening forks and brackets, replacing footrests, stripping engines to get the rocks out, and doing body work and painting.
The '51 MAC  Velo worked great right from the start except it was geared tall.  The Sprint however, wanted to shake it's head, something it had never done before.  And, it was geared too tall.  When Walt Fulton III tried to go out on #2 Sprint, he found that it wouldn't engage any gears.  While Karl tried to diagnose this, we agreed the Walt and I would share bike #1.  He agreed that it was shaking it's head and we both felt the front brake could be stronger.  Karl and Mike carefully adjusted the wheel alignment.  And they changed the shocks to the ones from bike #2.
It quickly became apparent that the gearbox of bike #2 wasn't going to be repaired in the next couple of days.  A later strip down revealed that all but three teeth had been broken off the sleeve gear.  Was this the result, or the cause, of my Sun. crash at Willow?  I guess we'll never know.
So Walt would ride bike #1 in 350GP and I would ride it in 500 Premiere.  The only problem was that the 500 Premiere race came before the 350GP and it was made clear to me that I better not crash the bike before Walt had a chance to race it.  Unfortunately, the 500 Premiere grid had been decimated by the carnage at Willow, so there were only three of us starting at Sears.  Kenny Cummings was not able to repair his bike, but rode Helmi Niederer's Seeley G-50, as Helmi was not able to make it because of business commitments.  And, Jeff Elings rode his G-50 Matchless.  Behind us was 500GP, Formula 500, 500 Sportsman, and Vintage Superbike Middleweight.  I led from Turn #1, was never headed, and turned the fastest lap of the race.  Second overall was Motorcyclist Magazine's Ari Henning in the 500 Sportsman class riding one of his Dad's CB 350 Hondas and I was pleased to turn a faster lap than him as he's an excellent rider with a fast bike.  I was brought back to earth when I saw that he turned a faster lap in the following 350 Sportsman race on the same bike.  Kenny rode very cautiously as he could not afford to damage Helmi's bike while he had extensive and expensive repairs to do on his own bike.
Next up was the Velo in Class 'C' footshift, gridded on the last row in the third wave behind Novice Historic Production Heavyweight, Formula 250, 250GP, Formula 125, and Class 'C' Hand shift.  I was able to pass 16 on my way to finishing 10th overall, 1st in class, behind 7 250GP and two Historic Prod. Hvywght bikes.
Going around Kelly Clark on a Montesa and leaving Neil Jensen's Honda behind.  Etech Photo
Walt won the 350GP race on the Sprint, finishing 6th overall behind five Triumph Thruxtons.  Motorcyclist Magazine's Zack Courts won the overall.  Like Ari Henning, I've  known him since he was a kid growing up in the paddock while I raced against their dads.  John Thorndike won the Bears class, having never before been to Sear Point, a difficult track to learn.
But, Walt wasn't at all happy with the Sprint, the headshake bothering him more than me and unhappy with the front brake.  So, Mike and Karl took the front brake apart and carefully massaged and adjusted it.  The shocks switch hadn't made any difference.
Karl and Mike massage the A1-R Kawasaki front brake on Sprint #1
Friday, Walt and I agreed the front brake was better, if not brilliant.  In the 500 Premiere race, I led for several laps, but then Ari came by on his Sportsman CB350.  We got into a good dice and I stuffed him good going into the turn #9 chicane and he stuffed me good in turn #3A.  I got right on his tail through the turn #5 carousel and got a perfect draft, pulling around him approaching turn #7, only to find I was in way too deep/fast and I had to stand it up and go wide while he slipped underneath.  That effectively ended my chances and I finished a little over a third of a second behind.  We both did our fastest lap on the last lap, his 0.051 seconds faster than mine and my fastest lap was nearly 2 sec.s faster than I had gone the day before.
The Class 'C' race started well on the Velo and on the third lap, I went almost 0.2 sec.s faster than my fastest lap Thurs., but then the motor started misfiring at high RPMs.  I started short shifting, but the misfire was coming at lower and lower revs and less and less throttle.  Many of the people that I had passed, passed me back.  I started to wonder if I was going to finish.  But, it did keep running (barely), though if the first four hadn't lapped me, it might not have, and I had built enough of a lead that no one in my class caught me and I wasn't last off the track.  We surmised that the magneto must be failing.
On Gary Roper's '51 Velo MAC . Etech photo

Walt again won the 350GP again finishing 6th overall behind five modern 865cc Triumph Thruxtons.
So, despite many problems, it ended up being a very successful event.
One of the races that I especially enjoyed watching on Fri. was the Sound of Thunder 2, Open 2 Stroke, Battle of the Twins and Sound of Singles 2 race.  Ari Henning was riding his hot rodded CBR250R Honda in SoS 2 and Zack Courts was riding Luke Conner's Triumph Thruxton in BoT.  Ari's Honda now has a 300F crankshaft in it and has an overbore, so it a full 300.8cc, and it has a special top yoke so he can mount the clipons under it, but it doesn't change the geometry.  And, he runs slicks on stock wheels.  But, still, it's and humble entry level bike built to a price.  Ari and Zack got into a tremendous dice and Ari prevailed, beaten only by two SoT 2 848 Ducatis, and only the winner having a faster fastest lap, to me an amazing performance.  I often moan about 'theses kids now-a-days', but Ari and Zack are a couple of 'kids' who are superb racers, excellent journalist, and delightful people to spend time with.  I'm fortunate to call them my friends.
Tim Fowler's CB160.  Tim is arguably the founder of CB160 racing.  Google 'Fowlerformula'
Tim about to ride Jeff Scott's '47 GTP Velo
Jeff Scott's Velo Endurance