Thursday, September 14, 2017

USCRA at MotoAmerica NJMP

America's premiere modern road racing organization is trying to broaden their appeal and have been dabbling in various support races.  For their second to last event, at New Jersey Motorsports Park Thunderbolt circuit, they contracted with the United States Classic Racing Association to put on a vintage race.  This was an invitational with 5 classes in one combined race: tank shifters, 250, 350, 500 and open.  It was a quality field with two Indians; Bultaco, Ducati, and TD1C 250s; three Honda CB 350s and a Yetman CB77, and Seeley 7R, and Drixton Aermacchi 350s; three Norton Manx's, a Vincent Comet, Triumph Daytona and an MV 500-4; and a BSA A75R and Honda CR 750.
I brought three Team Obsolete bikes.  The plan was for me to race a mid '60's BSA A50R, a 500cc twin which had been raced by Don Vesco, Dan Haaby and Jody Nicholas.  Canadian photographer and vintage race Doug MacRae was to race MV 500-4 and I would ride the ex-Dick Mann BSA A75R Rocket-3 in practice to get some action shots for an up coming article in Cycle World.
#11 is the BSA A50R and #7 is the MV 500 four
In our first practice Fri. morning, I had trouble with the throttle hanging up.  Then the bike started overshifting from 2nd past 3rd.  Then, it got stuck in a false neutral and wouldn't shift at all.  I pulled off at pit out and managed to get it into a gear and then couldn't get it out of gear.  A fellow pushed me back toward my pit with his Ruckus, but the clutch was dragging so badly that the motor started.  We put the bike up on a work stand and started to get to the selector mechanism, but had a lot of trouble getting the inner timing case off.  We were concerned about pulling gears out of engagement and losing the cam and ignition timing.  Then we noticed that a nut was missing from the cylinder base flange.  I borrowed a 5/16" C.E.I. nut off of Aleksey Kravcuk's MK VII Velocette KTT there on display.  But when I put the nut on the cylinder stud, it wouldn't tighten up because the stud was pulling out of the case.  At that point, we decided that this was a shop job and parked the A50R for the weekend.
So, for the 2nd practice, I rode the A75R triple.
The Dick Mann BSA A75R is up on the work stand in the background, #1
 Initially, I couldn't downshift it at all as the shift lever was too low.  I pulled in after one lap and we moved it up a spline.  Now I could downshift, but with great difficulty and the bike was geared a little short.  Doug MacRae was also having trouble downshifting on the MV four.  He didn't have enough room between the footrest and the  shift lever and when he'd hit a false neutral, the engine would die because of it's very light flywheel.  My problem was the opposite as there was too much space between the footrest and the shift lever and I had to slide my foot forward to be able to move it far enough.
Saturday morning, we put the only other rear sprocket we had for the triple on, 5 teeth smaller.  We just had one session which started with 10 minutes of practice, then a checkered flag and a return to the hot pit where we started a warmup lap for an 8 lap qualifying race.  Bob Coy, founder and leader of the USCRA, was very concerned about some one running away with the lead and making a boring race.  So he decreed that the leaders would swap back and forth for the first 5 laps, then could go for it on the last three.  Doug, on the MV, got the hole shot and led the first couple of laps.  Alex McLean on a 500 Norton Manx, Mark Heckels on a CR 750 Honda and I swapped back and forth.  I went by Doug, who was dealing with his shifting problems and Mark and I swapped back and forth.    After the 5th lap, Mark took off and on the penultimate lap, Alex came by me as I was dealing with my own shifting problems, and now the bike was geared to tall.  I was able to get back by Alex and that's how we finished.
After the race, we realized that we had another shift lever for the BSA with us.  Eli McCoy had brought another T/O A75R to display for sale.  It had a longer shift lever and we swapped that with the Dick Mann bike.
We stole the shift lever off the unnumbered Rocket 3.  This bike could be yours; it's for sale.
This is after we installed the longer shift lever
 We had no alternative for the MV however and, while he could adjust it up or down a bit (which helped marginally), Doug just had to deal with the shifter designed for Ago's little feet.
We had a short warm up Sun. morning and the longer shift lever on my bike was definitely better though not perfect.  For our race, the first of the day, Bob decreed that Doug on the MV and Chris Jensen on his Petty Manx Norton, would set the pace and we weren't to pass them until the half way point.  Also, it was decided to do a one wave start, not holding the 350, 250, and tankshifters in a second wave, as had been done Sat., to keep the bikes more bunched up.  Again, Doug got the hole shot and I followed him into turn #1, but then Kerry Smith came by on her CB350 Honda and she and I went back and forth a bit.  She then passed Doug when he was searching for a gear and I followed her.  Kerry wasn't playing to the story plan, but I was all for it as I was concerned that the choreography was looking phony.  Then, Rich Midgely came by both of us on Tim Tilghman's CB350 and I followed him.  Towards the end, Midge's bike started smoking heavily, not out of the exhaust pipes, but around them.  I thought that if he's leaking oil, I've got to get ahead of him.  As I went by, he seemed to slow and pull over.  I thought he was pulling off as he realize that he had a problem, but evidently he didn't.  Mark Heckles was following and getting covered in oil and Mark tried to warn Midge.  Between not being able to see and spending time warning Midge, Mark wasn't able to catch me and I 'won', expecting Mark to come by sometime on the last lap.  Luckily, no significant amount of oil got on the track and no one fell down.
The vintage presence was very well received by both the spectators and modern bike racers and negotiations are under way for the USCRA to put on a three or four race series at the eastern MotoAmerica races next year.
Doug, Eli and I stayed and watched the final race, the Superbike race, which was entertaining.  Toni Elias, who had cinched the championship winning Saturday's race, came around the first lap well back.  Apparently, his foot had got hit with some debris shortly after the start and he was very much distracted by the pain and dropped back.  He started marching through the field and it was a question if he could catch the leaders.  Rodger Hayden led the race until the last lap, but privateer Kyle Wyman was right with him, fading a little towards the end.  Elias passed Hayden in turn#1 of the last lap and apparently ran Hayden wide off the track and Wyman was able to pass Hayden also for a dramatic finish.
Mike Gontesky supplied a 250 Ducati for Tony Foale to ride.  It broke a piston and here he is finishing the installation of a spare motor.  Unfortunately, the spark plug didn't get properly tightened and blew out in the race.

Several great bike were on display including Aleksey Kravcuk's 1938 MK VII KTT Velocette and the 1912 Harley Davison on which Mike Gontesky completed the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

1 comment: