Saturday, October 1, 2016

VRRA Vintage Festival

I was contacted by a documentary videographer, Daniel Lovering, a while ago who wanted to make a documentary on me.  I told him that this had already been done ('Roper #7' by Don Lange at Staightface Studio).  Daniel replied that he was aware of that video and thought it was good, but he had a somewhat different take on the story.  In the 'small world' department, it turns out that Daniel and Don had both worked on the same TV show years before and vaguely remembered each other and I had bought a Velocette Thruxton from Daniel's dad, Talbot, maybe 35 years ago.
I told Daniel my schedule and he asked if he could come along with me to the VRRA's Vintage Festival at Mosport, now officially known as Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.  So Daniel, who lives in Cambridge, Ma., drove down to Team Obsolete HQ in Brooklyn, videoed the T/O shop and conducted a interview with T/O founder and owner, Rob Iannucci.  Daniel then followed me home and videoed an interview with me at my house.  He returned the next morning and started shooting me doing the final load of my van.  We then headed off to Mosport, he following me in his car.  We soon got separated an went different ways but managed to meet up again just north of Binghampton, N.Y.  After eating on the fly, we got to the track close to 9p and I set up my pit area, Daniel recording everything into the dark.
The next morning, we awake to dense fog which still hadn't lifted after I got registered, went through tech inspection and attended the riders meeting.  They couldn't start practice because the corner workers couldn't see from one station to the next.  The fog didn't lift enough to start practice until about 12:30p and they scheduled one round of practice for each group.
The '46 Moto Guzzi Dondolino and '70 H-D ERTT with Daniel videoing in the background
My '46 MotoGuzzi Dondolino had run poorly at Road America and, while I found and fixed the problem with the clutch, I had no confidence that the minor changes I had made would solve the misfire problem.  Sure enough, while it would start easily and run fine in neutral, as soon as I put it under real load it would misfire, so I pulled in after one lap.  My H-D ERTT 350 Sprint on the other hand ran well.  I was entered in the first race of the day on the Sprint, the Magill Masters Lightweight.  This is open to any lightweight vintage bike piloted by a rider over 50 years old.  We assembled on the pre grid and while we waited, the fog descended again and they sent us back to the paddock.  Then it started to rain heavily with lightning close by and it was decided to cancel all racing for the day.  After raining with lightning for several hours, it let up and the sun even came out, so I decided to change the magneto on the Dondolino.  Guy Martin of Martin Brickwood Performance dove in to help and together we got it changed and timed.  The tapered armature has a keyway to locate the magneto gear on the shaft, but for some reason, if I install the key, I can't get the timing correct.  The motor has no vernier adjustment for the mag gear and the points plate is fixed in the magneto and can't be rotated to adjust the timing. So, I've just put the gear on the shaft at the correct point without the key and relied on the taper and nut to hold it in place.
When I went out on the Dondo for Sunday morning practice, it ran great initially with no misfire, but then started running slower and slower and I pulled off after two laps. 
On the Dondo at Moss's corner.  Alex Bilo photo
 I then went out on the Sprint and again it ran well.  But, at the end of the session, I did a plug chop and was coasting into the pits with a a dead engine holding the clutch in, when the clutch suddenly engaged and the cable all of a sudden had a massive amount of free play.  I quickly disassembled the clutch as I was in the first race of the day.  I found that one of the friction plates had de-laminated and jammed. I scrambled through my spares to find a new clutch plate, installed it and re-adjusted the cable.  I got it all done just in time to make the pre-grid only to be told that I didn't have my transponder on the bike.  
Alex Bilo photo
I rode back to my pit and screamed at who ever was close by to get the transponder off the Dondolino and put it on the Sprint, but of course they couldn't understand what I was saying or know where the transponder was located on the bike.  So it took a while to get this done and, by the time that I got back to the pre-grid, everyone had left and I had to start from the pit lane after everyone had passed.  I picked off 5 of the 10 starters, many of them newer and/or bigger bikes, and closed on Stan Nicholson's TD 2B Yamaha, but ran out of time to catch him in the shortened races they had to run on Sun.
Alex Bilo photo
I found that the ignition timing had slipped (to about TDC) on the Dondolino with the mag gear moving on the shaft and I had pretty much given up on fixing it before race race 6.  The only hope was to put the key back between the gear and the shaft, mounting the gear in the advanced position, then retarding the ignition to the correct time with the cable operated manual retard.  I explained this to my friend Mark Heckles when he stopped by and he volunteered to help and encouraged me to give it a try.  So we dove in.  It's fairly involved and a buch of stuff has to be removed to remove the timing cover to remove the mag gear.  Then  it took several tries to get the timing close before buttoning everything back up.  Mark was also in race 6, as oddly, the Pre 50 class was at the back of the grid behind the P2 Heavyweight that he was in on a CR 750 Honda.  Mark kept saying that he had to go to suit up for the race and I kept saying ' yes; you go', but then he'd say that he'd just replace this or tighten that.  We finally got it finished and we both managed to get suited up and to the pre-grid on time to make the warmup lap.  I got a good start and led the Pre 50 class most of the way through the back straight when Ingo Reuters came by on his Pre war Rudge as the Dondolino slowed, and slowed, and slowed, then started to seize.  I whipped the clutch in and the motor stopped as I coasted into pit in.  Then I realized that in the frenzy, I never turned the oil supply back on, having shut it off to remove the timing cover, a huge mistake.  I have a reminder that I attach to the oil valve when I shut it off, but I had forgotten to attach it in the frenzy.  A reminder for the reminder?  No, I need an electrical cut out that grounds the points when the oil valve is in the off position.  Oh well, the show must go on.
My last race was the P1 350 Class which was gridded behind the P1 Open bikes.  I got a good start leading the 350s and started picking off the Open bikes.  I ended up 1st 350 and 5th overall, having caught 4th place and, waking him up up from his stupor, he got me back and beat me by a little over an eight of a second.  A somewhat satisfying end to a fraught weekend.
Alex Bilo photo
Daniel was shooting footage until the end and he has a huge editing job ahead of him as he can only use probably less than 1% of what he shot.  It a little unnerving to be followed constantly with a camera, but Daniel is a good guy and I'm sure he won't show anything that will embarrass me more that failing to turn on the oil. 

Daniel never stopped shooting
Stuart Dey said he couldn't afford a TZ750 so he had had Denis Curtis of CRM Products build him a chassis for a TR750 Suzuki Waterbuffulo


  1. Nice report, Dave! Thanks for sharing. See you at Barber...
    Best, Corey

  2. Thanks for sharing. You can't have a good documentary with out a little drama!

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