Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Classic TT 2017

On Wed. the 23rd, I flew to Dublin on my way to the Isle of Man for this year's Classic TT as the advanced party to Team Obsoletes presence.  This year we were bringing the first Honda 250 six cylinder, the RC 165 from 1964 to parade at the Jury Festival the the Lap of Honour.  In Dublin, I ran into Bob Robbins who brought his Britten to be ridden by Steve Briggs along side Kevin Grant's Britten, ridden by Bruce Anstey in the parades.  We shared the flight from Dublin the IOM, then got a cab to the dealer where I had a rental van waiting for me.  
This year's rental van--6 speed, petrol, front wheel drive.
We drove into Douglas and Bob got checked into his hotel while I went to Manx Telecom and got a new SIM card for my Manx phone. 

From there, we went to the paddock where we were sharing a tent.  I unpacked our crate while Duke Video recorded and did a short interview as I mounted the windscreen and added oil.  I had a chat with Dave Crussell, who had a flat tire on his TZ750 in practice and almost crashed.  Bruce Anstey came by to check out the Britten.  I asked him if he's riding a 250 again and he says that he is and that it's really fast.  That evening he does an unofficial record 250 lap from a standing start.  Cameron Donald came by to discuss recording the Brittens at Jurby, as now he's a TV commentator.  He asked for a ride on the Britten at Jurby and Kevin Grant agreed.  I ask if he's racing the 7R again and he says no, that he's racing a 350 Petty Manx that Ken McIntosh has built esp. for this race.  Having raced a 500 Manx, a Matchless G50, and a 7R, he's completing the quartet.  Wants to become the first rider to do 100 mph laps on 7R and 350 Manx.  I talked to Ken McIntosh about Hugh Anderson who still doing well and is still fast.  I talked to Bob Millanship as he's waiting to go out for practice on a modern 250 Honda  with Ducati decal on it.  He's also racing a 350 Ducati in Classics.  Then I check into the Regency hotel and have dinner at the nearby Indian restaurant.
The next morning I go up to the paddock to load the bike, spares and tools.  We were told that our only opportunity to test the bike before the public events was at the short circuit at Jury.  While heading towards Jurby on the extremely narrow Sulby Glen road, I swerved to the left to avoid a wide on-coming truck and my left wheels drop off the edge of the road and into a bit of a ditch.  I would have been fine getting it back up on the road if it wasn't for the iron culvert right at this spot which bent both wheels and flattened both left tires.
The ditch that sucked me in

The iron culvert that did the damage
The result: two bent rims and flat tires
Now I was stranded and discovered that I had no cell phone coverage when I tried to call the rental car company.  Pretty soon, a friendly local (this is a bit redundant as it seems that all the locals are friendly) came by and asked if I needed a hand.  I explained the situation and he volunteered to drive further up the road to where there was cell phone coverage and make the call.  He returned after a while and reported that there was a recovery vehicle on it's way.  Meanwhile, the rest of the Team Obsolete crew were arriving at the airport and our plan was for them to drive directly to Jurby from there, and I had no way to tell them that I was stranded and probably had no way to get to Jurby for our last chance to test the bike before the Jurby Festival on Sunday.
While waiting for the recovery vehicle, I checked out these trunk carvings

presumably the mate to the other
The flat bed recovery vehicle finally showed up and the van was loaded up.  The driver was cool, rode bikes and his boss was a racing sidecar passenger and had won a TT.  He agreed to drive to Jurby, drop the van so I could unload it, load up the van and drive it to the rental car agency without me.  Rob, Sonia, Josh, and Seth arrived from the airport and we proceeded to to test the Honda 6.  I just did one lap of the 1.7 mile long circuit built on a disused WWII airfield.  I found the bike awkward to ride in part because it seemed that some saboteur had raised the footrest since I last rode the bike 19 or 20 years ago.  But also, the carburetion seemed off as it would initially accelerate well, but then go flat.  I could get through this flat spot by slipping the clutch or downshifting, and eventually figured out that even up shifting would get me through this flat zone and the motor would pull up to 17,000 rpm.  I went out again for a couple of laps and felt a little more comfortable, but decided that the gearing was too tall and suspected that the jetting was to rich.  So we change the rear sprocket to one two teeth bigger and went to one size smaller mainjets.  While warming up the motor to go out again, we found oil coming out the breather hose and the clutch didn't seem to want to engage.  Rob and Josh analyzed the breather system and decided that the hoses into and out of the breather canister had been switched.  We had run out of time, so it was back to the paddock in Douglas, except for one problem; we had no van.  So, Josh stayed at Jurby with the bike and gear, and we drove back and we  were able to borrow a van which I drove back to Jurby and found the gate locked.  Someone else showed up needing to get in and eventually he was able to contact someone who knew the lock's combination and we were able to get in.  Josh had retreated to a hut as it had started to rain a bit.  We got loaded up and went back to the paddock.  I got a call from the rental car agency telling me the van was ready for pick up, and Seth drove me over there.
 We had learned at Jurby that Thursday wasn't our last chance to test and that we could go back Friday.  So, I changed the sparkplugs to hotter ones and Josh took apart the clutch and deglazed the plates and readjusted it.  We loaded up and back to Jurby.  I did a couple of laps and it felt better with the shorter gearing, leaner jetting and hotter plugs.  There was no sign of oil out of the breather hose, so apparently it was a matter of the the hoses being switched and not a piston or ring problem.  I did 3 more laps. As I left the pit, the gearbox seemed to skip or jump in 1st gear, but 2nd through 7th felt fine.  We decide to lean out the jetting again, but when I went to go out on the track again, I couldn't engage 1st gear and realized that we had a serious gearbox problem.  Now, I realized that when I thought the clutch wouldn't engage the day before, it was actually 1st gear not engaged.
Seth had talked to a fellow, Mike Jones, the day before who told him that he had a completely equipped shop in Jurby and that we were welcome to use it.  We gave him a call and he described exactly where it was and where the key was hidden, so we took a look.  
Mike Jones was working on a White steam car for the Transport Museum
And, another White steam car, this one a red White as opposed to a black White
Mike's daily driver: a hotrodded LE Velocette
Mike claimed that his would do 75mph after the motor work he had done.
The man to contact if you want to make your LE a giant killer
After a little debate, we decided it would be better to work on the bike there than at our tent back in the paddock.  Though it was less convenient to where we were staying, the facilities were better, it was out of the public eye, and we wouldn't have the distraction of people swarming around asking questions. We all returned to the paddock in Douglas, as we had to pick up more spares (including a spare gearbox), and found Mike who gave use more details of where stuff was in the shop.  He couldn't come with us as he had to collect his father at the ferry.  So Seth, Josh and I drove back to Jurby and set up shop.
Getting ready to dive into the Honda at Mike Jones shop
 We pulled off the fairing, a quite involved process which required disconnecting oil coolers and at least 14 screws, then the six exhaust pipes (many bolts, collars and much safety wire).  
Seth starts to remove the fairing
 Josh drained the oil and dropped the sump.  
Sump removed
 didn't find any swarf in the oil or sump and, while we couldn't see much, we saw no evidence of broken gears.
Josh peers in the sump
 Next we took off the chain, gearbox sprocket, and selector cover and everything in the selector looked normal.  Armed with this information, we returned to Douglas and had the pow wow with Rob about how to proceed. One argument was to remove the motor from the chassis, flip it upside down and take the bottom off to reveal the gearbox.  The spare gearbox we had was for a RC 174 (297cc six) and we didn't know if it was identical.  There was some thought that there might be worn or broken dogs on first gear but some of us thought it more likely that it was a worn or broken pin in the shift fork that engages with the slot in the drum, or maybe the drum itself was damaged.  Before we took it apart, we found that it would fairly consistently go into first gear if we rolled the rear wheel backwards as we lifted the shift lever and fairly consistently not go into gear if we rolled the wheel forward.  The other argument was to not open Pandora's Box, put it back together, put the biggest rear sprocket we had (which was only one tooth bigger than what we had already changed to), and run it as a six speed.
The final decision didn't come until the next day, but it was to not open Pandora's Box. So Josh and I went back to Jurby.  I changed the rear sprocket, which required a longer drive chain, and cleaned the pipes while Josh reassembled the sump and selector cover and worked on diapering up some minor oil leaks. We discussed knocking off to go watch the first race, the Senior Classic.  Josh decided he want to stay and keep working, but felt strongly that things were under control enough that I should go spectate.  I drove a few miles to Sulby Bridge.  Jamie Coward led early on a Norton Manx with Josh Brookes second on the Paton (which John McGuiness use to win last year) and Maria Costello third on another Paton.  Alan Oversby stopped at Sulby Bridge with his 500 Honda Four smoking like crazy, but he and the marshals looked it over and found no leaking oil, so he was allowed to proceed.  He stopped in the pits at the end of that lap, carried on, but didn't finish the next lap, which surprised no one, as we couldn't imagine there was any oil left in the motor.  Brookes over took Coward but the thought was that Brookes would have to stop for fuel while Coward would not.  William Dunlop, on a Honda four, was closing on Maria and pit stops would be a factor.  Tony Anslie stopped in front of us when his front brake adjuster had backed off, but stalled the motor before he re- adjusted the brake and had some difficulty bump starting the bike, but finally did and carried on.  Brookes briefly lost the lead after his pit stop, but put in his fastest lap on his last and won comfortably, but Coward had the satisfaction of putting in the fastest single cylinder lap ever(110.057mph).  William Dunlop did overhaul Maria for third while his brother Michael retired on his MV-3.
Some of the Sulby Bridge spectator's bikes
A HRD series 1?
A Cheney Triumph
A Oneoff Suzuki DR Big
A 1927 AJS K12
Something we don't get this side of the pond: a Yamaha Tracker
I high tailed it back to Jurby and helped Josh put the finishing touches on the Honda and pack everything back up.  We had to drive back to the paddock the long way through Ramsey and along the coast road as the TT course was still closed and we listened on the radio to the commentary of Michael Dunlop riding a replica Gilera 500 four recreating the first 100mph lap by Bob MacIntire 60 years before.  It took forever to get back, but we were finally able to put the bike on display for the big crowd in the paddock.
Rob had organized a dinner back at the hotel and, in addition to the T/O entourage, was Jim Redman and his partner Michelle, Stuart Graham, Mike Nicks, and Paul Barrett and his wife Sue.  Jim and Stuart had both raced this Honda Six in the GPs in 1964 for Jim, and '65 & '66 for Stuart.  Mike is a long time friend and Journalist and wrote an article about the Honda in the program.  Paul Barrett is the fellow who fist arranged for me to race at the TT in 1982, providing a 350 Aermacchi, and teaching me the course. A lot of TT history was at the table.
Sunday it was back to Jurby for the Jurby Festival, which was bigger than ever with hundreds of bikes and something like 10,000 spectators.  There was some drizzle or mist initially, but it passed quickly and turned into a beautiful day, which has been the case for the six years that they've done this.  They asked us to warmup the Honda well away from the control tower for fear that they couldn't hear anything or be able to make announcements.  When it was time for our session, I went out on the bike first.  I had to slip the clutch quite a ways to start in 2nd gear, but once rolling, it was OK.  Twice I tried downshifting from 2nd to 1st, but it didn't engage.  I clutched the motor for the two slowest turns to be safe, but I might have been able to roll on out of the powerband (about 10-17K rpms).  And, even with the shortest gearing we had, I still didn't see 17K rpms in 7th gear at the end of the bumpy straight on the 1.7mile circuit.  I did 3 laps then, after explaining the situation as well as I could, Steve Plater took it out for 2 laps.  He managed fine and commented on how well the bike handled.  Everything seemed fine, but Steve elected not to go out in the 2nd session, preferring to save the bike for the lap of the TT course the next day.
John McGuiness was initially scheduled to ride the bike on the Lap of Honour, but he had a very serious crash in May at the Northwest 200 and his right leg is in an external fixator and he's non-weight bearing until next February.  But, Steve Plater was an excellent replacement.  Steve won two TTs in his short career on the Island and won a British SuperSport Championship.  He's a regular TV commentator.  And, he's smaller and lighter than McGuiness.
Monday's weather was dodgey, but at first it seemed that the parade would happen, as the rain wasn't expected until late in the day.  However, the mist wouldn't clear on the mountain and, after a couple of delays, it was decided that there wasn't enough time to get everything in and the day's program was postponed until Tues. when better weather was expected.
So Seth, Josh, and I took off to kill the afternoon.  Josh bailed out in Douglas to explore and fulfill his souvenir obligations.  Seth and I dove south to Santon and Murray's Motorcycle museum.  The place was packed with motorcycles and people.  Every square inch of wall space is covered with photos or old newspaper clippings.  There were a bunch of engines including a cut away early 4 cyl. Goldwing.  After we had our fill, we continued south, saying G'd day to the Fairies at Fairy Bridge, cutting through Castletown and Port St. Mary to the Sound at the very southern tip of the Island, overlooking the Calf of Man.  We checked out the seals, which attract a good crowd, then walked along the rocks as rain squalls came through.  It's a georgous spot and one of my favorites on the Island.  We headed north on the west side of the Island, stopping at Dalby and the site of Ned's house in the film "Waking Ned Devine", which was supposed to take place in Ireland, but was filmed in the IOM.  Then we headed up to St. John's, past Tynwald Hill, to Ballacraine, where we joined the TT course.  We rode the course to Barragarrow Crossroads where we took a right and cut through the center of the course towards Brandywell, but turned right again and headed south through Baldwin and Strong and back into Douglas.  We collected Josh and walked up the Prom, checking out the bikes, to a Thai restaurant curiously named 'Manila'.
Seth had to leave Tues., which was a much nicer day, and I drove him to the airport in the morning, then driving up to St. John's to meet a dear old friend, who I first met in 1983 at Nobles Hospital where she was working as a physiotherapist, when I arrive for the TT with a severely sprained ankle from a broken conrod on an XR1000 H-D at Mid-Ohio that previous weekend.  When I approached the Tynwald, I saw that there was a VMCC bike show assembling.
A VMCC bike show assembles in front of Tynwald Hill in St.Johns
 I checked out a number of the bikes and ended up chatting with Sammy Miller about the 500 Bianchi twin he had there.
Sammy Miller's 500 Bianchi twin

Miller said the front brake was diabolical and derided the linkage
The Bianchi rear brake
I thought his Kay replica Gilera four was much nicer than the bike Michael Dunlop had ridden on his recreation of Bob Mac's first 100 mph lap, as it had a proper Smiths mechanical tach and magneto with distributor.
The cockpit of Sammy Miller's Kay replica 500 Gilera four
Miller's replica had a proper magneto with distributor and opposed the the electronic ignition with Lithium Ion battery on the bike Michael Dunlop paraded on a 100 mph lap 
Sue arrived and we went across the street to Green's Cafe and had tea and a scone with jam and cream while we caught up and gossiped about mutual friends.  The show was starting to break up as the riders took there bikes on the day's ride, but we had a great chat with a couple of delightful older blokes who both rode BSAs (a Goldstar single and Rocket Goldstar) retrofitted with electric starts.  The older of the two (86) complained at some length of being a chic magnet and he couldn't get much sleep with the women  propping ladders against his hotel window and tapping on it through the night.  The younger of the two (74) regaled us with stories of his latest ADV ride from Santiago, Chile to Terra Del Fuego, and many others through South America and Africa.
A 1904 Rex.  These bikes completed the John O'Groats/ Lands End run, which must have taken weeks in 1904
Indian single
A post war Douglas with high pipes, ready for the Blackwater Enduro
A trio of Velos
A Ner-a-car
A 1930 BSA sloper

Sue and I said goodbye and I drove around to Ballacraine to watch the first lap of the Junior Classic race that had been reduced to 3 laps.  Michael Rutter ended up winning on a Honda twin, beating Lee Johnston on a replica MV-3, Johnston having to pit for a splash of fuel, while Rutter didn't.  But, I had to leave after the first lap as I had to get the fuel to the paddock for Plater's lap on the Honda 6, and it was slow going on the back roads to Douglas with the race on.
A spectator's Velocette Venom Clubman at Ballacraine
A Velocette Valiant at Ballacraine
And a rigid MAC Velo
The larger Lap of Honour parade went off first, then Plater did his stand alone lap.  After warming up the bike in Parc Ferme, I started the bike for Steve on Glenncuttery Rd. Some how, one of us got it wrong as he must have taken off in 3rd or 4th, as he had to slip the clutch forever to get going.  But thereafter, things went well, although he reported that he had to roll off repeatedly as it wanted to over rev with the short gearing.  Then we heard the report that he had stopped at Sulby.  I went to the race office to see if I could find out if I should go to Sulby Crossroads or Sulby Bridge to collect him and the bike, but eventually was told that Steve had arranged to get the bike and himself back to the Paddock.  Josh and I started packing up spares and readying the crate, as we were leaving the next morning, and speculating what went wrong.  Steve finally showed up and reported that the bike was running well until it lost power on the Sulby Straight and he clutched it.  The bike was covered in oil and it didn't take long to see that it had dropped a valve on #5 cylinder, as there was all sorts of piston debris around the bellmouth and some in the exhaust pipe.  Opening the throttle revealed a valve stem with no head.  We'll have to wait until we get it back to Brooklyn and take it apart to try to figure out which failed first, valve or piston, and if it damaged the rod and head.
It's disappointing, but Rob and Josh put a positive spin on the situation--the bike got more than half way.  Many people asked me if Rob was really upset and I told them no; his best quality is accepting the risk when you put a bike on the race track and he takes the crashes and blowups in stride.
I spotted this Zundapp Super Sabre in the Paddock
I have a soft spot for these
One of the high points of the week was this Flying Millyard.  Millyard, a retired Defense Dept. employee, started with a couple of cylinders and heads from a radial aircraft motor
Notice the cranked pushrod tubes.  In the radial aircraft engine, all the cylinders are in the same plane as it uses a master slave conrods.  But, in the Flying Millyard the cylinder are offset because the rods (which he made himself, along with the crank and crankcases)are side by side on the crankpin.  There are straight push rods in the cranked tubes.
The gearbox is a three speed + reverse out of an old car
The speedometer is proportional.  Millyard had the engine done in 3 months and the whole bike finished in 11 months.  He rode it some 300 odd miles from England.

1 comment:

  1. It was the highlight of my day to read this Dave. Every year I look forward to your "day in the life" chronicle of the Classic TT. The roadside attractions (and ditch de-tractions), the backroads and out of the way areas, the friendly and fun-loving people, and of course the mechanical trials and tribulations (I'm glad that, like me, even Honda six owners/handlers are not immune from procrastination and forced preparation for a race/show/event!) It all makes for a wonderful real life story. Gives me the feeling of being there. If only!