Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Willow Springs

 I flew out to LAX to race at the 20th annual Corsa Motoclassica at Willow Springs on Mike Bungay's 350 H-D Sprint and Gary Roper's '51 Velocette MAC.  We had decided that there wasn't much to be gained from Fri. practice as I raced both of these bikes at Willow before, so we had a good baseline.
There is a sister bike to the Sprint, that's technically owned by Karl Engellener.  Karl does the motor work on both bikes and Mike does most of the chassis and body work on both bikes and they are a true team.  Walt Fulton III was to race 'Karl's' bike, designated #2 as it was built after the bike that I was racing, #1.  The two bikes are exactly alike except for thr forks, shocks, front brake, front tire tachometer, and primary gears.  #1 bike, that I was riding, had a new piston, valves, one guide, and an Avon AM 26 front tire, as the Dunlop KR 825 tire is no longer available.  Both bikes had a new exhaust port shape and were producing more power on the DYNO than ever before.
This is Karl Engellener's bike #2 which Walt Fulton III was riding.
Gary had been working on the Velo, too.  He moved the oil tank to the left side so that a longer intake tract could be used, which the DYNO showed broadened the power band.  He also made an additional heavy duty gearbox mount, put on new tires, replacing the Avon Speedmaster ribbed with an AM 26, and replaced the simple seat springs with mountain bike spring/shock units.
The Dyno liked the long intake tract and I liked the mountain bike spring/shock units on the seat.
Gary added an extra gearbox mount to keep things rigid and square
Willow was near it's miserable worst, with an overcast sky, cool to cold temperature and the wind just blowing like crazy.  This and the motor work required both bikes to be geared up from what we ran last time.  We had some trouble with the tach on Sprint #1, which just turned out to be the battery.
My first race was on the Velo in Class 'C', which was gridded behind 200GP.  The little 350 Velo was lined up with Beno Rodi on a 1939 BSA M-24 Goldstar, Fred Mork, on a 1939 500 Norton Manx, and Gary Swan on a 1953 500 Triumph T100C in the 11th and last row.  I got a good launch and didn't see any of my Class 'C' competitors again (except when lapping them).  I got to chase down a bunch of the 200GP bikes, finishing 6th overall out of the 26 starters.
Next up was my 'bump-up' race, riding the 350 Sprint in the 500 Premiere class, which was gridded first in front of 500GP and the second wave 500 Sportsman and Sound of Singles 2.  We had Ron Melton and Thadd Wolfe on 500 Manx Nortons, Kenny Cummings and Helmi Neiderer on Seeley        G-50s, Jeff Elings with a Matchless G-50 also in a special frame and me on a little ol' 350 Sprint.  I was third behind Kenny and Ron going into turn#1 and Thadd came by in turn #2.  Thadd went by Ron and was looking to make a move on Kenny in turn #4, the Omega, when he fell.  We continued down the hill and when I just started to crack the throttle in turn #5, I was down.  When I slid to a stop and got oriented, I realized that my bike was in and impact zone and I picked it up to move it away.  It was then that I saw the Kenny and Ron had also crashed.  Kenny was checking on Ron who was slow to get up  having three broken ribs and a fractured fibula as we were to learn later.  After a bit the red flags came out and we saw an ambulance coming, which I assumed was for Ron. But, the ambulance turned and headed beyond turn #6 out of our sight.  We later learned that was for Wendy Newton and Ralph Hudson in the SOS2 class in the second wave.  Ralph said that they saw the yellow flags and the debris on the track and slowed through the turn #5 area, but still had a slide, then figured that they were by the incident and time to resume racing.  Wendy opened the throttle and went sideways, first one way then the other before high siding.  Ralph had nowhere to go and hit her bike and was launched over the bars.  A third rider ran off the track avoiding them, and crashed in the dirt; seven riders down in less than half a lap.
Here's a link to Etech Photo's sequence of the opening lap: http://www.etechphoto.com/12015/Motorcycles/425-AHRMA-Willow-Springs/Race-9-500-Premier-500-GP-Spor/i-LH3sphD/A
In the 2nd photo you can see the dust from Thad crashing. In the 3rd photo, Thad's helmet at the very left.  In the 4th photo Thad standing; going to his fallen bike in the 5th and picking it up in the 6th.  In the 7th photo is Wendy Newton and Ralph Hudson from the 2nd wave, headed for disaster.
We quickly confirmed that the track was covered in oil.  It developed that a competitor in the following 350 GP race had taken a 'scrub' lap at the back of our warmup lap and the gearbox drain plug had fallen out of the bike.  The rider realized that something was wrong but, with no 'hot tech' at pit in, rode back to their pits.  It was a very awkward situation as this rider is very munched loved and respected, but made a very poor judgement and now Wendy had a broken radius and ulna in her wrist, three broken ribs and a broken vertebrae and was transported to the hospital, not to mention the trashed bikes.  The #1 Sprint had bent forks, bent footrest and mounting plate, broken windscreen and dirt in the inlet tract.
post crash.  While it doesn't look too bad from a distance, the forks were bent and there was dirt in the int. tract
Kenny's Seeley G-50 was worse with a bent fork, bent and/or broken motor mounts, likely bent swing arm, dented fuel tank, smashed fairing and windscreen and dirt in the inlet tract.

the belly pan of Kenny Cumming's Seeley G-50 after Saturday's crash
Neither of these bikes would run on Sun.  I didn't get a good look at Ron's, Ralph's, or Wendy's bikes, so I don't know how bad they were.  Ron left Sat. afternoon, Wendy was in the hospital, and Ralph was beat up enough that he didn't race on Sun.  Thadd was able to patch up the Manx and won the 500 Premiere race Sun.  Kenny and I had some bruises and abrasions, but nothing serious.
It was decided that I would ride Sprint #2 in the Formula 250 race, the last race of the day Sun., after Walt ran the 350 GP.  So, I practiced on it Sun. morning and, while slightly different than Sprint #1, was also excellent.
I again won the Class 'C' race on Gary's Velo and again chased some 200GP bikes, catching a dice between Mark Hunter and Ron Monsorius again finishing sixth overall.
Walt won the 350GP race again Sun., then I got on the bike for the Formula 250 race.  I had looked at the lap times from Saturday's race and seen that Dave Crussell had a best lap of a high 1:41.  My best lap in the morning practice was a 1:44, so I was resigned to racing for 2nd.  But, I got a good start and led to the approach to turn #8 when Crussell came by, on his 350 Kawasaki Bighorn. I followed closely and got underneath him in turn #4.  He drafted past.  I got a good draft on him and led again.  And so it went.  He seemed to have a little top speed advantage, but also had some shifting problems.  He was really good into turn #2; I thought that I had a bit of advantage in turns #4 & 9.  About the sixth lap, I made a really big effort in turn #9 to stay in Dave's draft down the front straight when I lowsided at easily 100 MPH.  But, it's not the speed that hurts you; it's the sudden stop.  And, there was no sudden stop.  I just tumbled for a while and collected more bruises.  Later, Karl discovered four broken spokes in the rear wheel; was that a factor?  Or, a gust of wind? Or, was I just pushing too hard?
In any case, both the bikes were crashed, my leathers and helmet beat up, and I was pretty sore.  The price of glory.  And, we planned to race again at Sonoma Raceway in three and a half days.
Once again, Yoshi Kosaka organized a bike show and some interesting machines showed up.
YDS-3 Yamaha
the owner claimed this Goldstar was inspired by a Velo Thruxton.  The fuel tank, I guess
An AJS Stormer M/X bike turned  road racer
An RZ 500 Yamaha done up in GP livery
Roger Reiman's H-D KRTT, owned by Fred Mork
A nice Norton International
Virgil Eling's Gilera four

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