Wednesday, August 16, 2017

VRRA's Summer Classic

My third race weekend on the trot was the VRRA's Summer Classic at Calabogie M/S Park south west of Ottawa.  I first raced at Calabogie last Sept. and thought it was fabulous.  3.16 miles long with 20 turns, and it seems that all of them are blind, off camber and decreasing radius.  It's a very challenging track.  They held a two hour endurance race on Fri. and Francis McDermott had gotten in touch and asked if I wanted to do this race with him on his TT-1 Ducati.
While this violated my policy of racing older and slower bikes as I slide into my golden years, I thought it would be an excellent way to learn the subtleties of the track, and nostalgic as I spent a good deal of time on TT-1 & 2 Ducatis back in the day.  But, this bike was quite a bit up spec. from anything that I ever rode.  The lower end of the motor was actually  from a Monster, so was 6 speed and dry clutch, but it had the air cooled top end and measured 840cc.  It has 43mm Showa forks and 320mm rotors with 17" wheels and Pirelli slicks.
The race included P-3, which runs up to '82, and P-4, which runs up to '89. Francis' bike is considered P-3 Middleweight which runs in the Endurance Middleweight class with P-3 HW, and P-4 F2 and F3, the smaller of the P-4 classes.
I got in a couple of practice sessions before the race and found the bike easy to ride, though I was definitely sneaking up on it.  While I tend to be a single cylinder guy, if you're going to have two, the 90 degree layout is the way to go.  This motor was marvelous--torquey and with a broad power band and smooth. Even though we didn't use tire warmer, the tires seem to grip well immediately.  The bike steered very nicely.  My main problem was with the brakes.  I'm used to grabbing a handful with the vintage drum brakes, and I couldn't seem to retrain myself to use one finger.  Therefore I had trouble being smooth on the brakes, especially blipping the throttle on downshifts.
Fran's brother Gerry and Don Morse were the main pit crew with a dirt riding buddy of Fran's, Scott Ramsey helping during the actual race.  We never got a really accurate fuel consumption test and neither Fran or I were sure we were up to a full hour stint, so we went with two half hour sessions each.  Fran started and after about 12 laps, I took over.  Being able to do lap after lap on such a long and challenging course is a joy and very instructive.  Gradually, I found I was using a taller gear in various corners.  Accelerating out of the tight decreasing radius turn #8 up over a rise and the right kink of #9A, I started to slide and wondered if the rear tire was going away, but eventually decided that, no, it was just the bike getting light over the rise and the rear tire spinning up a bit under hard acceleration, something I'm not used to on the puny vintage stuff I'm usually riding.
Bill Murphy photo
I had no trouble doing my12 or so laps and might have been able to do a full hour but, as it turned out, fuel consumption would have be iffy.  There was a little drama after Fran was called in from his second stint.  As I was putting on my glassses after putting on my helmet, I noticed the right lens was loose and about to fall out.  The screw had come out of the ear piece.  Scott had to run and get safety wire and pliers and Don got the glasses wired up just as Fran pulled into the pits.  I had a shorter second run as the race ended up being reduce by about 10 minutes as we had run over the 5p deadline.  We ended up 6th of the 11 Middleweights and 8th over all with two Heavyweights ahead of us.  Good fun and very useful for learning the course.
Bill Murphy photo
In the few days between the AHRMA NJMP race and leaving for Calabogie, I did some rudimentary body work, mounted a new windscreen, mounted a muffler and straightened and welded the broken handlebar, but didn't get a chance to install it.  So Friday, between practice sessions, I pulled the top yoke off and installed the original clip-on and changed the gearing.
a new windscreen, repaired fairing, and left clip-on
Sat. there was just one round of practice and I got 4 laps in on my ERTT.  After getting somewhat used to the speed of the 840 Ducati, things were almost in slow motion on the Sprint and it felt like I had time to get it right.
I had to add a silencer for Calabogie which has a strict noise limit

My first race was the P1 Open and P1 350 qualifying heat.  On the warmup lap, I saw one of the silencers falloff the expansion chamber on the bike that Chris Hurst was racing.  This is a sort of tribute bike that Allan Lylloff built, and is sort of a replica of the Yamaha that Mike Duff rode at Daytona in 1967.  He started with a frame that he believes is RD 56 and installed a hot rodded YR1 350 motor.
Alan Lyloff's RD56/YR-1
 I quickly got in the lead of the 350s and got by a couple of Open bikes, but at the end of the 1st lap, Andy Dornellas came by on his CB350 Honda on the brakes into turn #18.  I got him back on the front straight and this pattern repeated itself on the next lap.  Chris Hurst came by on the Yamaha and the lack of one silencer didn't seem to be hurting it much.
I believe this is a Robinson front brake on the Lyloff Yamaha
Paul Brubaker was leading overall on Rodger McHardy 500 Norton twin, and Chris and  I went back and forth with Doug Forbes on his 750 BMW.  Then, Peter Hurst, Chris' older brother came by on his 750 Norton Atlas based racer.  Evidently, when he went to the pre-grid, it was pointed out to him that he had forgotten his transponder and by the time that he got to his pit and returned to the pre-grid, we had left and he had to start from the pit lane after we all had started the race.  Chris dropped back with what he thought was running out of fuel.  Peter went on to win the overall, with Paul 2nd and Doug 3rd.  Andy fell off in turn #19 on the last last making a big effort to get back by me, so I was 1st in class, 4th overall.  Andy banged up his ankle and, while he raced his RS 125 Honda (and did well) the next day, he didn't repair his P1 bike and didn't start that final the next day.
my rudimentary bodywork didn't include repainting the fairing
My next race was my 'bump-up' class, P2 lightweight, with P1 200 and Pre-50 gridded behind us.  Tim Voyer led early, but I reeled him in and we got into a real dogfight.  The bikes were quite evenly matched and we each passed the other on straights.  On the last lap, in the last corner, Tim high sided trying to to get a good drive to draft me to the finish line.  His bike wasn't too bad, but his hand was very swollen and he didn't race the next day.
Saturday evening was a dinner open to all and, after chatting with Andy, a couple sat down next to me and the woman and I started chatting.  It took me a while to realize that I was talking with Kathleen Coburn.  I was a big fan of Kathleen and her traveling partner and fellow racer, Toni Sharpless, when they were racing in the AMA Superbike series in the 80's.  They both had great style and pluck.  Kathleen was road racing for the first time in 25 years and doing it on the first bike that she had road raced, a '82 RD350LC Yamaha.
Kathleen Coburn's original road racer, an '82 RD 350 LC
But, it wasn't like she hadn't ridden a bike in 25 years.  She, her husband Jon and their two daughters are avid dirt bike riders and ride all the time on their farm and go down to West Virginia and ride for a month.  Jon was clearly tempted by road racing and Kathleen was encouraging him to do a track day.  I watched Kathleen race Sunday and she seemed to be gridded with bigger bikes, but she told me that she was determined to be 'like a horse fly', annoying those bigger bikes in the corners.  And, she did just that, looking great, really tucked in.
Sunday I just did two laps of practice to check that everything was still alright.  In the P1 Open/P1-350 race, my two main competitor in class didn't start, Andy with his CB350 banged up and Chris figuring out that the stuttering he interpreted as running out of gas was actually the gearbox jumping out of gear.  So, I led the class from the start and slowly reeled in Doug Forbes on his BMW and was able to make the pass stick, finishing 1st in class, 3rd overall behind Peter Hurst on his Atlas and Paul Brubaker on Rodger McHardy's 500 Dominator.
Again, in the P2 LW, my main competitor didn't start, Tim Voyer nursing a very swollen wrist and hand.  I led from flag to flag and had the pleasure of a completely unobstructed track to try to make that perfect lap.
So ended three back to back to back weekends, racing in three different organizations with different rules and procedures, traveling 2350 miles, starting 12 races with my Sprint and winning my class in 12 races (four overall 1sts, three O.A 2nds, three O.A 3rds, and two O.A. 4ths), suffering one crash, and having a great time at all three events.
Kat Collins and Tim Joyce with the outfit
A chain drive BMW boxer
Drive detail
rocker cover bling

a Yamaha 550 Vision; not your typical race bike

1 comment:

  1. How did the Vision do on the track? There were a few raced back when they were new.