Monday, July 31, 2017


The weekend after AMA VMD was the AHRMA race at New Jersey Motorsport Park's Thunderbolt circuit.  I arrived Fri. evening shortly after a horrendous thunderstorm that rivaled a tornado.  Shredded EZups were collapsed every where and even bikes lying on their side in the mud.  There was some question as to what track conditions would be the next day.  Sat. was dry, but there were at least three places where water was still on the track.  I was quite concerned about this as I had a Continental ClassicAttack tire on the front and I had been told by many that this tire was no good in the wet.  I went and watched the rider school mock race, which had been held over from Fri. because of the weather.  There were two bands of water in turns #3 and #4, but I could see that one could go quite straight through them and none of the students seemed to have any problem there.
So, I went out in the group 2 practice and tip toed around.  In turn #10, there was a tar patch that looked very slick and I made sure I stayed inboard of it.  But, I focused so intently on the slick tar patch that I failed to notice how wet the track was around it and on the 3rd lap, I slapped it down.  I was unhurt, but the bike got torn up a bit.
The ERTT after I crashed it and before starting to work on it.
The windscreen was broken off and with it a bit of the fairing and the left handlebar was broken.

There was mud and grass everywhere.When I got it back in the pits John Stevens dove in and was a huge help kicking the bike back into shape.  We cleaned it a bit before we got the fairing and fuel tank off and found dirt in the carburetor.   The first order of business was finding a replacement handlebar and Mark Morrow came to the rescue on that front.  But this required pulling off the top yoke to slip the one piece 'clip-on' over the fork tube.  I dug through my spares and found a different perch and clutch lever as the perch is integral on the broken handlebar.
The replacement clip-on was much longer, but didn't pose a problem
 We carefully took the carb off, and there was no dirt down stream of the carb, so we took the carb apart and cleaned everything.  The rear brake pedal was pushed in and we had to carefully bend it back out without cracking it.  A little tape on the broken off bit of fairing, and I was ready to take the bike to have it re-teched.
ready to get re-teched
 I did a 'scrub lap' in the race before my first to check that everything was alright and it seemed good.
My first race was the bump-up class 500 Premiere, which was gridded first in front of 500GP and BEARS in the first wave and Sportsman 500 and Formula 500 in the second wave.  My arch nemesis and good friend Helmi Neiderer on his Seeley G-50, prepared by NYC Norton, got the hole shot, but a couple of the bears bikes came by before we even got to turn one.  Brad Phillips and Dan May on their BMWs and Stan Keys on his Norton Commando were pulling away as I was dicing with Helmi. Then Dan Mays bike seized and left a long rubber trail on the track.  I saw a big cloud of smoke  ahead, but then realized that it was steam from the hot motor flopping over into the wet grass outside turn #8.  Then Alex McLean came by on the 500 Manx Norton.  I got ahead of Helmi and chased Alex and finished just over half a second behind him in 4th over all, 1st in class.
My second race was the 350GP which was gridded first in front of Sportsman 350, Vintage Superbike lightweight, and Novice Production Heavyweight.  I was first off the line but Rich Midgely quickly came by on his CB 350 Honda and steadily pulled away.  And that's the way it ended with Midge about just over 7 seconds ahead of me, so I was 2nd overall and 1st in class.
Sat. evening, I spotted a bunch of vintage twins cylinder bike outside the condos at NJMP and I knew that they must be the Retro Tours group.  Sure enough, I saw Joel Samick in the on site restaurant and told him that I'd stop by after dinner.  I had a good smooze with the group, which were mostly return customers.  They had a good ride from Kennett Square, Pa., to the track and were headed to Delaware the next day.
Sunday, I had one good practice and then lined up on pole for the 500 Premiere, 500GP, BEARS, Sportsman 500, and Formula 500 race.  Again, Brad Phillips and Stan Keys on their BEARS bike came by before turn #1, but no Dan May because of his bike failure Sat.  Helmi and I went back a forth a bit and then Rob Hall came by on his 650 Triumph Bonneville.  Rob and I went at it and left Helmi.  Our bikes were evenly matched overall, though each had an advantage in different places, and we passed each other many times while closing on Stan Keys.  On the last lap, with me ahead of Rob, Stan had a slide out of turn #9 and ran off the track and I got by him and Rob had to check up when Stan came back on the track, so I finished 2nd overall, 1st in class.  Great fun.
In the 350GP, Sportsman 350, VSL, Novice Prod. H.W. race, Rich Midgely didn't start as he had crashed on a flat tire in a previous race.  Ake Smith, on his CB350 Honda, passed me going into turn #1 from the start, but I got him back in turn #4 and was never headed again, winning overall.
Four class wins and a first, 2 seconds and a 4th overall finish was a satisfying come back from crashing first thing.
One of the highlights of the weekend was seeing Art Kowitz' Kawasaki Bighorn road racer from the early '70s.  I have a soft spot for Bighorns as that was the first bike I road raced.  Art said he built the bike before he knew what he couldn't/shouldn't do and therefore came up with some innovative solutions.  The bike was raced by Ted Henter as a Junior with some success before Art raced it himself as a Novice.  He quickly advanced to Junior and won his first race as a Junior, which advanced him to Expert.  So, the Bighorn was sold.  The new owner put a headlight and kickstarter on the bike and took the fairing off and rode it on the street a few times, then put it away in a storage locker for 45 or so years.  He recently contacted Art out of the blue and said that Art should have it.  Art picked it up just a few days before coming to NJMP  and displayed it how he found it.

That's an H1R front brake and an A1R rear brake and swing arm, 35mm Certain fork and Koni shocks

One problem with road racing a Bighorn motor was being able to gear it tall enough, as it was designed as an enduro bike.  The clutch pushrod in front of the gearbox sprocket limited how big a sprocket one could put on.  Art eliminated the clutch pushrod and adapted A1 Kawasaki clutch release, which lifts the pressure plate from the opposite side.  The box you see with the clutch cable going to it behind the carb is this mechanism.
Art hadn't decided yet what he would do with the bike--restore it or leave it as is--a time capsule


  1. Another great writeup! Also Mid Ohio and Roper TT. The way you nonchalantly come back from a crash to race and win all weekend. And the Big Horn is a trip. A steampunk vision of a race bike. Thanks for keeping me in the loop.

  2. All your hard work is much appreciated. Nobody can stop to admire you. Lots of appreciation. Buy Tyres Online