Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 Barber Vintage Festival

I missed the pre-entry deadline for Barber because two different dates for that deadline were published in different places.  Therefore, I started from the back of the grid for each of my classes (or  near the back if there were post entries after mine).  I raced three different bikes in three different classes: the CT1 Yamaha built by Dennis Latimer that I've ridden the last two years at Barber in 200GP; my H-D Sprint ERTT in 350GP; and a Team Obsolete Matchless G-50 that we had recently restored in Classic '60s.  There is no practice on race days at this AHRMA event and riders are required to practice either Thurs. or Fri., but I decided to practice both days, riding the CT1 and my ERTT on Thurs. and the G-50 on Fri.
My H-D Sprint in the foreground and Team Obsolete's latest Matchless G50 

I went out on the CT-1 first and on the 3rd lap crashed, spinning it out in turn #5.  Just as I saw the fresh scrap marks on the pavement, I lost the front end and lowsided, with little damage to me or the bike.  I like to think that there was something slippery on the pavement from the previous crash, but maybe I was just pushing too hard too fast and things weren't warm enough yet.  This was the second time I crashed this year, the other being early in the year at Willow Springs, also in my first practice session, but also several laps into the session, and also with little damage.  This is a little better than my average of three crashes a year, but still too many.
I replaced all the friction plates in the clutch of my ERTT after the problems I had at Mosport and Calabogie, but found that it would not fully release at Barber.  I though if I used it a bit it would free off, but it didn't.  I eventually realize that because the plates were thicker, the springs would coil bind, preventing a full release.  By this time, Josh Mackenzie had arrived after taking the Chinatown bus from Manhattan to Birmingham.  We replaced one new plate with a thinner used one and the clutch worked fine the rest of the weekend.
Dave Mathews photo
In the mean time, I went out on Dennis Latimer's 'B' bike, but that had a slipping clutch cause by stripped threads in the crankcase for the clutch release cover.  So, they installed a spare motor in the 'B' bike.  I went a few laps on that, but then the motor seized.  So, it was back to the 'A' bike, patched up after the crash.
I thought I could squeeze one last weekend out of the rear tire on my Sprint, but a couple of slides convinced me that I'd better change it and after practice Thurs., John Stephens helped me mount a 'take off' John Cronshaw had given me at Daytona last year.
Friday I concentrated on The Matchless G-50.  This is a bike that was raced by Harry Webster in his native England and possibly the Isle of Man.  He brought the bike with him when he immigrated to the U.S., but apparently never raced it here and it ended up going through several hands.  It ended up with a fellow in Auburn, Ca., who began to restore it, but never finished it before he died.  His widow  hung on to it for years but finally decided to sell it.  Rob Iannucci bought it and it was delivered to the AHRMA race at Sears Point/Sonoma Raceway and Larry Morris kindly agreed to haul it back to Brooklyn.  We went through the motor, gearbox, and forks, had the fuel and oil tank painted and mounted new tires.  The bike has a few interesting period modifications, the most obvious being the addition of frame tubes running from the swing arm pivot diagonally forward to the backbone.  This necessitated the modification of the oil tank.  The fuel tank had indentations put in for clearance with the clip-ons and the front brake has a cooling ring shrunk on.  Other wise the bike is very standard and original.
The frame tubes coming diagonally up from the swing arm spindle are non standard.
We guessed pretty well on the settings and just added one tooth on the rear sprocket and dropped one size on the main jet after a couple of practice sessions.  The front brake got better with use but still required a lot of force.  I had some problem with the 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 1st shift, the gearbox seeming to want to stop in neutral, but we didn't see a practical solution to this.
The alloy cooling ring on the front brake drum is a fairly common period modification

I think this is exiting turn #8. Nev Miller photo
I did one short session to the CT-1 'A' bike and one on my ERTT to check the rear tire, but the ERTT  misfired badly.  When I came in, I found the battery ground plug wasn't all the way home and I went out for one more lap to confirm that was the problem.
Sat. the first race of the day was the 200GP at 8am.  I gridded up 39th out of 41 entries on the 10th row.  I made an effort to be mellow initially in the cool conditions, remembering my crash Thurs. morning, but still was quickly into 3rd place and closing on Jeff Henise on his F-3 Kawasaki in the lead and Greg Glevicky on his Honda twin.  About the time I passed Greg, Jeff threw his hand up and pulled off.  It turned out the rotary valve had seized in it's case.  So, I had clear sailing to the checker and won by over 2.8 seconds with a fastest lap almost 1 second quicker than Jeff's.
On the David's Sports Center, Dennis Latimer built CT-1 Yamaha. Nev Miller photo
The 350GP raced followed immediately and here I gridded 20th out of 20 on the 5th row.  In addition to starting from the back, when the 'one' board went sideways, I tried to put my motor in gear with the rear brake pedal, the Sprint shifting on the opposite side from the Yamaha.  So, I left the line last by a ways.  But, again I was quickly up to 3rd, behind Jack Parker who was chasing Paul Germain.  And again, about the time I passed Jack, Paul threw up his hand and pulled off and I had smooth sailing to the checkered flag.  I won the race by some 16.5 seconds.
In turn #5 on the H-D Sprint.  Nev Miller photo
What I didn't learn until later was that Germain's motor had seized and he coasted for a ways, then let out the clutch and the motor fired.  He babied it for a couple of laps and thought it was running pretty well, so he wicked it up and ended up turning the fastest lap in the class (Eric Cook had the fastest lap in the race on his 350 Sportsman bike starting from the 2nd wave and ending up 3rd overall), about 3/8th of a second faster than my best.
Waiting to go out on the track.  George Roulson photo
Thurs., I had been introduced to Juan Bulto, by Hub Zemke.  Hub is a passionate Bultaco enthusiast who I've know for years.  Hub had arranged for Juan, the son of the founder of Bultaco, to come to Barber with the Romero brothers, one of whom had built the frames in the Bultaco race shop and the other who ran the dyno.  We saw in practice that Juan was very fast and in the 250GP race, race #5, Germain went faster than he had in the 350GP on the same bike that had seized, but Juan went a good deal faster than that, winning the race.  In fact, Juan's fastest lap was more than 1.5 seconds faster than my best lap in the 350GP.  I was under the impression that he was going to 'bump up' to the 350 class, but he didn't Sat.  Between him and Paul, Sunday's 350GP was far from a foregone conclusion.
After the 350GP race, Greg Glevicky came to me apologizing for protesting the bike I rode in 200GP.  He said that he didn't really know, but he had been told that the 'cylinder head' was illegal and that he was involved in a duel for the 200GP championship with Jeff Henise and the points were important.  I   told Greg that there was no need to apologize, that I didn't take it personally, and that I thought protests were a good thing to clear the air and maintain the level playing field.  Apparently, the basis of the protest was that the cylinder (not head) was not of the period.  That protest was dis-allowed, but the referee, Tony Pentecost, asked Dennis Latimer what size carburetor was on the motor.  Dennis replied that it was 34mm.  The limit is 30mm, but Dennis pulled off the carb and removed the 30mm restrictor plate to show Tony and the bike was deemed legal and the win stood.
During lunch, they held the Century Race for bikes at least 100 years old and I very much enjoyed checking out the bikes and catching up with Keith Martin of Big D Triumph in Dallas.  Keith had prepared the 1915 Norton of Richard Asprey and went along as support crew in the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, a coast to coast rally from Atlantic City, N.J. to Carlsbad, Ca.  The bike is reputed to be the 12th oldest known Norton.
The 1915 Norton of Richard Asprey as it ran in the Motorcycle Cannonball
Keith Martin told me that the caliper brake on the front of the Norton was virtually worthless
Been Rodi rode this Indian in the Century Race
A Triumph Century racer
This BMW ran in the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball
A H-D Cannonball bike.  Note the added front brake and auxiliary fuel tank
A Sears Cannonball bike with the usual mods of front brake, aux. fuel tank and route sheet holder on those wild handlebars 
The 12th race of the day was the Formula 250/Formula 125/ Classic 60s and Classic 60s 650 and I was gridded 36th overall, 9th in class on the 13th row, in the 3rd wave.  I got a decent launch and passed Alex McLean on a Norton Manx early for the class lead, as we sliced through the heavy traffic of the F-125 and many F-250 bikes.  But, after a few laps, Alex passed me back and pulled away.   He finished 4th overall and I was 6th O.A., more than 11 seconds behind him.  I again missed the 1st to 2nd shift, which was only a problem in turn #5, the slowest on the track.
Alex Mclean #122 stalking me after we passed the F-125 bike of Earnest Csizsmar
Earlier in the day, I had run into George Barber and we chatted a bit.  He had a woman with him who was doing video interviews for the Museum archives and she asked me if I would do one.  I agreed and Josh and I rode over to the Museum after our last race.  After the interview, Josh and I toured the museum a bit and ran into Chuck Hunnycutt, the head of restoration at the Museum.  Chuck and I go way back having competed against each other for several years and stayed in touch for the years after.  Chuck gave us a behinds the scene tour and we stayed until they shut down the Museum.
Unfortunately, I forgot that this is when the awards ceremony  was going on and I missed my opportunity to collect my awards from Colin Edwards III, the Grand Marshall for the event and missed my chance to thank Dave Ecker and Dennis Latimer who were there.  Apologies.
Josh and I then joined the Time Warp Vintage Motorcycle Club's barbecue  in the paddock.  I'm an honorary member, having broken down in Knoxville, Tn., years ago on my way to Barber an getting my old friend, Butch Sprain, President of the TWVMCC, to help me there.  This involved leaving my van there and renting another and then getting the van fixed on our return.  This was finally finished just before the Club's monthly meeting, which we attended and were inducted.  Since then I've followed the Club's many activities from a distance via their email and meeting minutes.
Sunday had the same schedule and again started with the 200GP race.  Jeff Henise had replaced his seized motor with a spare and again I quickly got into 3rd behind Greg and Jeff.  I got by Greg and set off after Jeff and wondering if I could catch him as he was really going well.  Then the exhaust pipe blew off the cylinder of the CT-1 and I pulled off.  It was a bit of a disappointment as it was shaping up as a good race, but it's better than a rod through the case.
So, on to the 350GP race.  Again, Juan Bulto did not start and, in fact, Jack Parker pulled off after the warmup lap.  This time I made sure I got it in gear by using the shift lever, not the brake pedal.  I ran down Paul Germain in a few laps and out braked him going into turn #5, but his motor was running poorly and finally seized for good.  I had an easy run to the flag for the overall win, though my fastest lap was slightly faster than Sat. and only bettered by Rich Midgely winner of the 350 Sportsman class from the 2nd wave.  In fact the next 9 bikes behind me were 350 Sportsman bikes.
Ahead of Paul Germain on his DT-1 Yamaha before he dropped out.  Nev Miller Photo
Paul Germain put his spare motor in for the 250GP race and kept Bulto honest and again had a slightly faster lap (0.08 sec.) than I did in the 350GP.  So again, I lucked out with the 2nd 350GP win, as the cliche goes: you have to finish to win.  And, was it Woody Allen who said "80% of success is showing up"?
After the long wait, we finally grid up for the Classic 60's race.  At the start, Rob Hall out drags me with his 650 Triumph from the Classic 60s 650 class (his brother Jake had ridden it Sat.).  I got by him for a while, but when I missed another shift he came back by.  Then Alex McLean came by and set off after Rob. On the 7th lap, Dave Crussell in the F-250 class crashed and the race was redflagged and declared over.  I was 6th overall again and officially 2nd in class, though 3rd in my wave, and my fastest lap was more the one second quicker than Sat.
Alex Mclean again stalking as he goes by #43 Henry Syphers.  Henry was enter if F-125, but that sure doesn't look like his 125 Honda.  Nev Miller photo
Big events always run the risk of being ruined by their success.  It gets more expensive, more bureaucratic, there are more crashes and traffic and protests.  Emotion run high.  But, clearly the great majority agree it's still well worth it in the case of the Barber Vintage Festival.  The track is superb for vintage bikes; the level of competition is high; the amenities (museum, swap meet, bike shows, etc.) great; and the weather regularly good.  While a hurricane raged to the east and kept many entrants home, we had delightful weather in Leeds.
#112 Aleksey Kravchuk was pitted next to us
The non-original fuel tank indentations which allow the clip-ons to be pulled back a little further
On the grid on the T/O Matchless G-50.  Stacie London photo

Loaded up and ready to head home.  We actually headed to Greer, S.C., and spent the night with Henry Kelller who Josh had worked with on an AHRMA team when he lived in Florida.  Henry's planing a comeback for next year.

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