Sunday, August 20, 2017

VRRA's 50th Anniversary Celebration of the '67 Canadian GP

1967 was Canada's centenary and, as part of the celebrations, the government helped finance the one and only Canadian Grand Prix, the second last round of the World Championship that year.  Last weekend, the VRRA celebrated the 50th anniversary of that event and tried to get as many riders and machines that were in the event to attend.  I didn't bring my own bike, but instead brought three of Team Obsolete's stable: the Arter Matchless G-50 which is probably the actual bike that Mike Duff raced to third place behind Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini; the Surtees Special AJS 7R, a bike that Mike Duff, Peter Williams and Dave Hughes raced; and the Dick Mann BSA Rocket 3.  The plan was for Michelle Duff to parade the Arter G50 and the Surtees 7R and for Alan Cathcart to parade and practice on all three bikes for an article, and for me to race the Surtees Special.
In the first practice on Friday, it seemed like the 7R was over geared and we changed the rear sprocket from 49T to 50T.  But, it still didn't want to pull the revs and we put in one size smaller main jet.  Then we dropped the main jet again.  While it would start easily and accelerate pretty well, it didn't want to rev, so we borrowed an 18T gearbox sprocket from Roger McHardy and change from the 19T that was on it Fri. evening.
There was no practice Sat., and the first event was '67 GP Celebration race, a special event for P1 bikes.  We assembled on the grid with dead engines and our mechanics in whites.
Paddy Fitzgerald and I discuss tactics on the grid.  Ron Agnello photo

Chris Hurst and Paddy Fitzgerald admire the Surtees Special and try to psych me out.  Ron Agnello photo
We did a push start for the warm-up lap to give the spectators a taste of what it was like in the good ol' days, but started the race with a clutch start.
bump starting the Surtees Special for the warm up lap.  Bill Murphy photo
 I finished 5th behind the 500 twins of Dave Cote, Paul Brubaker, and Brian Henderson, and the 750 BMW of Doug Forbes.  The 7R went better with the lower gearing, but I still wasn't satisfied with it's unwillingness to rev.
Approaching the finish of the '67 GP Celebration race.  Ron Agnello photo
Then we went into parade laps.  Michelle Duff rode the Arter Matchless G-50, Alan Cathcart rode the BSA A75R Rocket 3 and I rode the Surtees Special.
Michelle Duff on the left, Alan Cathcart on the right.  Larry Morris photo

Alan Cathcart on the Dick Mann BSA A75R with Michelle Duff behind and Josh Mackenzie holding the 7R while I go to find out what's going on.  Larry Morris photo
After a few laps we traded bikes and Michelle rode the Surtees Special and Alan rode the Arter G-50  and finally Alan rode the Surtees Special.
Cathcart on the Surtees Special with Pat Nicholson escorting him.  Bill Murphy photo
We all agreed that the Surtees Spl. handled the best with light, quick steering, despite it's 19" wheels as opposed to the 18" wheels on the other bikes.
My next race was after lunch in the P1-350 class gridded behind the P2-Heavyweight and P2 Middleweight Production.  There were 54 entrants overall in this race  and it was very busy.  Early on, I got a few rain drops on my windscreen.  Just after I got the half way flag, someone in front of me crashed in turn #1 and I had to check up.  When I got to turn #4, the red flags came out and I assumed it was for that crash and stopped at turn #5.  In Canada, one has to stop at the next marshal's station as the ambulance won't roll with bikes moving on the track.  We waited there a while before they finally told us to motor back to the paddock.  By this time it was raining and by the time I got to turn#8, it was pouring rain mixed with hail.  EZups were flying all over and by the time we got our pit secured enough to get out of the rain, we were thoroughly soaked.  There was quite a long delay as, even after it stopped raining, there was standing water in many places.  I wondered if we were done for the day, but they finally restarted the race as a 3 lap dash.  The track was mostly dry, but there were damp patches that had to be felt out.  I went back an forth with Paddy Fitzgerald on his Norton Atlas and managed to stay ahead, but Kevin Dinsmore came by at the end on his CB350 Honda  and I ended up 4th in class and 12th overall.
exiting turn #2 on the Surtees Spl.  Ron Agnello photo
Rob Iannucci trying to diagnose the 7R's problem

By this time we were wondering if we had gone the wrong  way on the jetting and decide to go much richer for the Pre-65 350 race gridded behind P1-Open.  But, the richer jetting didn't help and the motor was getting rattley.  Again, I chased Paddy Fitzgerald's Atlas but this time couldn't stay ahead and Tim Tilghman motored by me on the last lap to win the class and me 2nd in class and 5th overall, Paul Brubaker winning overall with Brian Henderson behind him.
Paddy Fitzgerald #163, Tim Tilghman #T25 and me jockey for position in turn #2.  Ron Agnello photo
The 7R had gotten progressively slower and we didn't like the sound of it.  We hadn't been able to find the cause, so decided to park it and switch my entries to the Arter Matchless for Sun.
Saturday evening there was a terrific banquet with Alan Cathcart acting as M.C. Before he got started, Rob Iannucci was present with a birthday cake and every one sang Happy Birthday.  He was also given a marvelous welded metal sculpture of a Honda 6, made by Dave Mascioli.
Alan then proceeded to weave the story of the '67 GP by interviewing many of the participants who were there.  Starting with the 125GP, he talked with Robert Lusk, then Jim Allen.  Jim said that it was his first year of racing, maybe his 3rd or 4th race ever and that he rode an 80cc Suzuki bore out to 100cc.  Bill Ivy, on the works Yamaha water-cooled V-4 lapped Jim on the 3rd lap and 3 or 4 times more.  Jim said that he had no business being in this race and it's unimaginable now, but it was a different time and I guess they were desperate for entries.
Next, Alan told the story of the 250GP through Rod Gould, who wasn't at the Canadian GP, but later  won the 250 World Championship, Phil Read, who was quite funny, Frank Camillieri, and Yvon Du Hamel.  He also got Tom Faulds, then head of Honda Canada, to tell the story of helping Mike Hailwood and Ralph Bryans with their 250 Honda 6s and later how he got possession of the 297 6 cylinder Honda that had been sent to Canada as a 'hack' backup.
Finally came the story of the 500GP through Dave Lloyd and Michelle Duff.  Unfortunately, the microphone started playing up for Michelle, and I had a lot of trouble hearing her.  Alan did a great job of giving insight to this race 50 years ago.  By the way, the only two people who arrived at the banquet on motorcycles were Toni Sharpless and Kathleen Coburn, who both raced with distinction over the weekend.
Sunday morning, I changed my entries to the Arter Matchless.  Because it has a disc brake, I had to enter P2-Heavyweight (up to '72 750s) and bump up to P3-Lightweight (up to '82 550 four cylinder/650 twins/unlimited singles), a tough row to hoe.  Dean De St. Croix was to ride Ken Rosevear's 350 Goldstar powered Geoff Monty replica, but he crashed one of Maurice Candy's 500 Manx Nortons in Saturday's P1-500 race and broke his big toe and a rib and decide to sit out Sunday.
Dean De St.Croix on Ken Rosevear's Geoff Monty Special replica.  Bill Murphy photo
 So Ken asked me and Tim Joyce if we'd like to race his bike.  I entered the Warwick Cup, a race for Pre-65 500 British bikes, named after Doug Warwick, one of the founding members of the VRRA and a Velocette devotee.  Tim entered the bike in P1-350.
We had one round of practice Sun. morning and both bikes felt good, though very different.  The Arter Matchless has considerably slower steering and I found that I had to initiate my turn in earlier on it.
For some reason, despite my late entry, I was gridded on the front row of the P2-HW.  I got a good start, but was soon swamped by the bigger, newer bikes.  Again, I found myself chasing Doug Forbes on his 750 BMW and finished just behind him and ahead of Mark Morrison on his 550 Honda four, 7th is class, 9th overall.
On the Arter Matchless G-50 in turn #1? Bill Murphy photo
The Warwick Cup followed immediately and I finished 3rd on Ken's sweet bike behind the 500 twins of Roger McHardy, Paul Brubaker on the Norton and Dave Cote on the Triton.
Me on Ken's 350 Goldstar in turn #1?  Bill Murphy photo
My final race was the P3-Lightweight and again I was gridded on the front row and again I was swamped by the newer, bigger bikes. I was dicing at maybe the front of the 2nd third of the field when, just after the half way flag I felt the motor slow, then start to seize as I went through turn #2.  I clutched it and pulled off.  By the time we got it back to the pits, the motor would turn over, but with no compression and subsequent examination revealed a piston eaten away.
So, while we had machine problems, overall the event was a great success, with a big entry and lots of spectators.  I had been concerned that with a big entry, quite a few of whom weren't familiar with Mosport, that there would be a lot of red flags, delays and shortened races.  In other words, that the event would be spoiled by it's success.  And, there were a few red flags and a big weather challenge Saturday, but the event was very well run and all the races went their full length Sunday.
Between working on the bikes, catching up with friends and well wishers, being interviewed and photographed, I found that I didn't end up taking many photos.  There was an excellent display of significant race bikes with everything from Giancarlo Fallapa's 1990 Ducati 888 to a early 30's Sunbeam, with a NSU Sport Max, F-3 Ducati single, TD1C Yamaha among many others in between. I was particularly impressed with Ken Rosevear's fabulous restoration of the TR 500 Suzuki with which Jim Allen won a Canadian Championship, with Ken the tuner.
Ken Rosevear's TR500 Suzukis as race by Jim Allen.  Ken finish the restoration the day before the event.  Ron Agnello photo

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