Saturday, March 4, 2017

AHRMA Roebling Road; the 2017 season begins


The AHRMA  season traditionally begins with Roebling Road in Georgia and this year it was the 25-26 February weekend.  In total contrast to last year, the weather was very warm with temperatures on Fri. and Sat. in the 80's and Sun. pushing 70 and sunny.
Team Obsolete's Surtees Special AJS 7R
In addition to my 350 H-D Sprint ERTT, I brought Team Obsolete's 'Surtees Special' AJS 7R to test in practice.  This bike has a chassis designed by John Surtees in 1959 and built by Ken Sprayson of Reynold Tube.  Surtees never got to race it as Count Augusta, Surtees' employer at the time, forbade it.  Surtees sold the bike to Rex Butcher who, for some reason, couldn't get on with it.  He let Mike Duff ride it on a practice day at Brands Hatch and Duff loved it.  Duff got Tom Arter, his sponsor at the time, to buy it and he raced it with success.  After Duff was hired by Yamaha, Peter Williams raced the bike.  They both speak very highly of the bike.  This became the inspiration for subsequent Arter Matchlesses.  After Arter died, his family put the bikes up for auction and Rob Iannucci bought several of them including the Surtees Special.  We recently restored the bike and this was the first opportunity to ride it.
I took it out for two sessions on Fri. afternoon and immediately felt comfortable on it.  It handled great and the 230mm Oldani front brake was excellent.  The ergonomics were good, except that the shift lever was too long and was too close to the exhaust pipe which caused me to miss a couple of the downshifts going into turn one.  We were running it without a fairing as it hadn't arrived yet from England and the overall gearing was too tall, so I didn't use 6th gear in the Schaffleitner gearbox.  But, I still turned a 1:31.188 lap time which was just over half a second slower than I went on my Sprint in Sunday's second race, with a fairing and geared correctly.  The bike has potential.
My Sprint had been freshened up with new rings and a valve job and the drive train had been considerably revamped.  Stripping it at the end of last season revealed more broken dogs in the gearbox, so I had Bill Himmelsbach install a modified '73 road bike gearbox.  Replacing the sleeve gear and corresponding gear on the layshaft raises the 4 lower gear ratios closer to 5th and makes a good set of ratios for racing.  It's a little wider ratio with a lower 1st and 2nd gear, but 4th is actually closer to 5th.  I also had bought a light weigh clutch assembly from Jon White of Prova which has an alloy basket and hub and more, but thinner plates.
#35 is Doc Batsleer's 1934 Indian racer behind my ERTT
When I rode the bike around on Fri., I felt the clutch slip a couple of times and when I examined it, I found that the outer most friction plate had come out of engagement with the splines and dropped down.  I took it apart and found two steel plates back to back and removed one.  This gave the outer most plate more engagement with the splines and in Saturday's two practice sessions, the clutch seemed to work fine, though I didn't do any hard, clutch slipping launches.  Everything worked OK, but the motor was stuttering some when loaded hard in the corners, something that I've been riding around for awhile.  Peter Politiek, Snr., thought that this was because the carb was jetted to rich.  I was somewhat skeptical as I've played with the jetting and float height and hadn't seen much difference, but I did drop the main jet one size before the 350 GP race.  We were gridded first with Formula 500 behind us in the first wave and Vintage Superbike Lightweight and Sportsman 500 in the second wave.  I got a great launch with the lower 1st gear definitely helping and led briefly until Jim Hinshaw came by on his F-500 H-1 Kawasaki.  I tried to hang with him and could close a bit in the corners, but he'd jet away on the straights and pulled steadily away with his fastest lap being about one and a half seconds faster than mine.  On the last lap, my clutch started to slip quite badly and I nursed it to the finish and had enough of a lead over Bobby Birdsall in 2nd 350GP that I finished more than 6 seconds ahead of him.
Jim Hinshaw's H-1 Kawasaki
I took the clutch apart again and found that the friction material on the outer plate that had dropped down before was virtually gone.  So, I put in an OEM friction plate, which was thicker and engaged on the inner hub rather than the outer basket, but seemed like it would work fine.  The motor was still stuttering quite badly in some corners, so I dropped the needle one notch before my next race.  This was 500 Premiere, 500GP, and Sportsman 350 in the first wave and Formula 250 in the second.  I was the only entry in 500 Premiere, a sad state of affairs, and, although my bike qualifies for 500GP, I enter Premiere as I feel we have too many 500 classes, that 500GP is redundant, and I don't want to see the Premiere class go away.  The rules for 500GP are identical to 500 Premiere except the bike must weigh a minimum of 285 lbs. (I don't think a bike has ever been weighed in AHRMA), retain the original stroke and have a maximum of a 5 speed gearbox.
I was gridded alone on the front row, but a 350 Sportsman bike mistakenly pulled up to the front row also.  Again, I got a great launch and led the first lap.  Finishing the 2nd lap, John Miller on a Sportsman 350 bike come by on the front straight.  But, as we approached the start/finish line, they held out a 'meatball' board for the rider who started on the front row with me and John momentarily thought it was for him and rolled off the throttle.  This allowed me to get by and back in the lead.  I figured John would come back when he realized his error, but instead it was Alex McLean who came by on his 500GP Norton Manx.  We went back and forth a couple of times and at least once I was able to draft him down the straight and out brake him into turn #1.  But, finishing lap 6, my motor died and I coasted across the finish line a found that my spark plug cap had come off and the guts had come apart and wouldn't stay on.  So, I DNFed, but still won my class as one just has to complete one lap to be considered a finisher.  A hollow victory, indeed.  I did have the third quickest fastest lap behind Alex and Paul Garland on a F-250 Yamaha.
The McKeever Norton Manx's that Alex McLean races, the Classic 60's bike on the right, 500GP on left
The plug cap I had been using was the type that go over the threaded end of the plug.  These seem to work well initially, but then get harder and harder to take off, which causes me to force it, then the clip inside breaks.  I was able to get a replacement cap that goes over the 'nut' on the thread end of the plug for Sunday's races.  The motor had run maybe slightly better, so I dropped the needle to the final notch.
In Sunday's first practice, the ground lead came off the battery and I came in on the pickup truck.  I run an AGM battery with has the spade terminals, rather than the lugs.  So I crimped down the female end and made sure it was on well for the second practice.  The motor ran terribly in the second practice, stuttering and misfiring everywhere.  I came into the pits after two laps and when I went to pull the other end of the ground lead out of the frame, it felt loose.  So, I pushed it back in firmly and immediately went back out and the motor ran the best it had all weekend.  Clearly, the carburetion problem I'd been chasing was an ignition problem.
On the Works Manufacturing starter rollers with my dear friend Harriett Delong in the background.  Darleen Dremel photo
For the 350GP race I made sure all the connections were good, then wired and taped everything together to make sure nothing could fall off.  Again, I got a good launch and led briefly and again Jim Hinshaw came by on his H-1.  This time he pulled away quicker and I gave up any pursuit.  After a couple of laps, Bobby Birdsall caught me napping and passed with his beautiful short stroke 350 Aermacchi.  I got back ahead, but he motored me down the straight.  The next lap, I got right on his rear wheel coming out of the last turn onto the front straight and was able to stay in his draft until he shifted into 5th and I had to pull out to avoid touching his rear wheel.  I pulled along side, but then he motored ahead again.  I was able to out brake him into turn #1 to lead the class again.  I figured he'd be back as his bike was clearly faster and he was riding very well, but we were getting into lapped traffic and I was able to loose him.  So again, I finished 1st in class and second overall, this time with only the 4th fastest lap behind Hinshaw, Daniel May on his Vintage Superbike Lightweight BMW twin and Brian Wells on his VSL Honda.
Bobby Birsall's 350 short stroke Aermacchi
I didn't change anything for my last race a the bike was working the best it had all weekend.  I was expecting to have another dice with Alex Mclean on his Norton but I'm told that he came in the pits after two laps and then went back out for reasons I don't understand.  Instead, Daniel Miller on his F-250 350 Honda twin came by on the last lap and I had no answer for him and he finished 0.805 second ahead of me, his fastest lap being 1.853 seconds faster than mine.  John Miller and Scott Turner on Sportsman 350 bikes also had faster fastest laps than me, but not enough to them and I finished ahead of them by about 2.5 seconds.
Juan Bulto on the left with one of the Romero brothers working on his 250 TSS Bultaco
Juan Bulto, son to the founder of Bultaco Motorcycles, again came from Spain, after having impressed everyone at the Barber Vintage Festival last year with his very fast 250 air-cooled TSS Bultaco and his superb riding.  Juan won both 250GP races and on Sat. went slightly faster than I did on my last lap on Sun.  He could be winning 350GP races with his 250 but, so far, hasn't chosen to, perhaps because the motor has a short fuse.  They did change it once this weekend.  Juan says they may well come back for the next AHRMA race at Carolina Motorsport Park in Kershaw, S.C., as he really likes the atmosphere here.  He and his crew are a pleasure to have at the races.
Blazingly fast and a very nice guy
on the 350GP grid with John Stephens 442 Ducati, Don Hollingsworth's 950 350 Sprint, and Mike Wells' 341 CB77 Honda.  Darleen Dremel photo
All the H-D/Aermacchi four stroke singles were lined up for a photo op. That's Jason Roberts 200GP in the foreground.
200GP, 250GP, 350GP, and 500GP bikes are represented here.  There were also a couple of unfaired Historic Production Sprints that aren't in the photo.
This is the Hollingsworth 200GP CRTT front brake.  No one seems to know what kind it is other than it's Italian
Another view of the Birdsall 350 Aermacchi with all the Dick Linton goodies
The Norton Racing Manx's 
Hinshaw's Kawasaki doesn't have any H-1R parts, only hot rodded street bike parts.  That's his H-2 in the background.

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  2. Great write-up. My first ever motorcycle racing experience was through AHRMA in the early 1990s, where I brought a Honda Hawk for some lightweight BoT fun. But the real fun was spending time peering at all the vintage bikes, asking questions and watching the races. Alas I am now living in Singapore and have no access to vintage anything...the posts remind me of those fun weekends at Talladega and Road Atlanta. Have a safe 2017.

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