Thursday, April 28, 2011

22-24 April, 2011 AHRMA , Willow Springs, Ca. I raced Mike Bungay's 350 Aermacchi and Gary Roper's '51 Velocette MAC. The Aermacchi is a well developed street bike motor in a one off racing chassis that bears some resemblance to a Ducati TT 1/2 trellis frame. Mike lives in Sacramento and I've ridden this bike many times. The Velo has a rigid rear end with telescopic forks and 21" front and 19" rear wheels. The MAC model is 350cc but is running in a 500cc class, Class 'C' foot shift. Gary and I don't know how we are related, but there must be some wandering gene there somewhere that must go back to Sylvester, inventor of the steam motorcycle. Gary lives near Ashland, Or., and came with his son John. Fri. I did a half day of practice, going out first on the Velo. It vibrated like crazy and I decided it was geared too low/short. But, the good news was that it shifted fine after having a reverse camplate and close ratio gearset installed since the first time I rode the bike at Miller M/S park, last Sept. I then went out on the Aermacchi and decided it was geared too short, also. While Mike was changing the gearing, I noticed the swing arm was cracked, so that bike was finished for the day as we arranged to get it welded over night. I went out again on the Velo with one more tooth on the gearbox sprocket and it was better but I thought still too short. It was a bit hard to tell as the bike has no tachometer. I also ran Ron Halem's 500 Goldstar to shake it down and evaluate it prior to it going to the Isle of Man for the Classic Manx GP where Kevin Murphy will ride it. Sat. practice, I rode the Velo with yet another tooth on the G/B sprocket and it seemed good. The Aermacchi, with welded up swing arm and taller gearing initially seemed good, though I decided the front wheel was out of balance/round and on the last lap it started running funny, sort of surging. Turns out the front tire was out of balance and the intake manifold was very nearly broken off all the way around. Off to the welder again. For Saturday's Class 'C' race, there were four entries Fred Mork on a Garden Gate Norton Manx, Ted Van Doorn on a Matchless G80 and Ken Genecco on a Vincent Comet. I got a good start and led for the first 3 laps, but then the clutch started to slip and Mork came by. I was able to nurse it to the finish in 2nd. On the Aermacchi in 350GP, I got a good start and led initially behind Ralph Hudson leading Formula 250 on a TD-3 Yamaha. First, Dave Crussel came by on his 350 Kawasaki Bighorn in F-250, then Jim Neuenburg motored by on Fred Morks short stroke 350 H-D/Aermacchi. Jim went on to lead overall briefly before Crussel got back by him. I got ahead of Hudson when he ran off the track, but he recovered and passed me back. The front fairing bracket on my bike broke almost immediately allowing the fairing to bear against my left hand and clutch lever. It wasn't a huge problem, but was distracting as was the fact the my leathers started to unzip. I finished a distant 2nd. Fixing the fairing bracket wasn't a big deal but, on the Velo we found the the gearbox adjuster bolt had broken, allowing the rear chain to pull the G/B back making the primary chain tight as a banjo string. Gary had no spare, so we had to weld it. This involved indexing it so the thread lined up, beveling the ends, welding it straight, grinding down the weld and finding a 7/16" X 26 tpi die to cut thread over the weld. Amazingly, it came out beautifully. The clutch, however, was wasted an a call went out to Tom Ross in Riverside, who owns a MAC. Tom drove up to Willow Sun. morning and helped install the necessary clutch parts. In Sun. practice, the Aermacchi started backfiring on decel, and I told Mike to look for exhaust leaks. Sure enough, a bracket had broken off, taking a chunk out of the pipe. Back to the welder. We clearly have a vibration problem. I didn't get to practice on the Velo as it took all morning to install the clutch and primary drive, but I was able to do one 'scrub lap' on the warm-up lap of the first race of the day. Again, in the Class 'C' race, I got a good start and led into turn #1 and continued to lead all the way through the last corner on the last lap when Mork motored by my 350 with his 500 for the win. In the 350GP, another good start and and I led briefly overall when Hudson ran wide in turn #3. Hudson came back by, then Crussel on the Bighorn. At the end of the 2nd lap, Neuenburg motored by, but I was able to pretty much hang with him untill the 6th lap when my Aermacchi made a bad noise and I stopped. Mike takes these failures in stride, is undaunted, and is determined to find some more power. Gary has big plans for the Velo, also. A good event despite the wind, which is always a nuisance at Willow, but probably the worst I've seen it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My season so far

I've raced my 1946 Moto Guzzi Dondolino and my 1970 350 H-D Aermacchi at four venues so far this year. I started at Virgina Intl. Raceway in a WERA event. This was the first time I'd had the Dondolino on a track and I had a lot of teething problems as one expects from a new bike. Slipping clutch, oil leaks, and finally in the race, front brake failure. Luckily, I had enough room to get it slowed down (it has a great rear brake). The turn out was very light and I had an easy win on the H-D. From V.I.R., I drove to Savannah, Ga. to race at Roebling Road Raceway in AHRMA's first race of the season. I spent the practice day fixing all these niggling problems with the Dondolino and didn't get it on the track, but ran it around the paddock at the end of the day. The next day, the Dondo died on the first lap of practice--no spark. I found the button on the magneto end of the high tension lead had come off and thought that must be the problem. But, after soldering it back on, still had no spark. I was ready to believe the magneto had died, but Al Hollingsworth kept futzing with it and after a while, there was spark. I started the race with no practice on the bike and Alex McLean on Bob McKeever's cammy rigid Norton gapped me. But, after a few laps I noticed I was closing on Alex. About the time I pulled along side him, he squirted away and the Dondo started running poorly again. If I gave it much throttle, the motor would cut out. I was able to nurse it to the finish, though, ending up 2nd. I was able to win the 350gp fairly comfortably on the H-D Aermacchi.
Again, I suspected the magneto on the Dondo, though I wondered about fuel feed also, but I didn't find anything wrong with either. The next day, it ran fine for both practice and, in the race, I got the hole shot and led the first lap. But, at the end of the straight starting the 2nd lap, Alex came flying by and pulled steadily away. Again I finished 2nd, but well clear of the others in the class. And, again, I won the 350gp.
When I got home, I discovered the throttle wasn't opening all the way and I ordered a throttle with a bigger barrel from Jon White at Prova. And, I ordered a bigger rear sprocket when I learned the next circuit on the calendar, Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, Tx., was quite short. I drove to Roanoke, Va. where I loaded my bikes and gear into Eric Mercer's van and trailer and we continued on to Tx. Practice went well in hot conditions and I felt I got a fair handle on this tricky little course. But, I totally blew the start of Sat. Class 'C' race on the Dondo as I thought I was in gear but wasn't when the flag dropped. By the time I got it in gear, everyone was gone. Keith Martin at Big D cycles had built a very fast rigid, pre-unit Triumph and his rider, Ryan Ambrose, is 27 yrs. old and brave and knows the track intimately. Ryan's fastest lap was 4 secs. faster than Alex or me, and I finished a distant 3rd. In 350gp, Paul Germain got the hole shot on his very well developed Yamaha DT1 powered racer and gapped me a bit, but I reeled him in and was able to pass for the win. Sat. night a cold front came through and it was 30 degrees colder Sun. than Fri. or Sat. We were warned that the track got slippery in these conditions and, for that reason, I skipped the first round of practice Sun. morn. I did 3 laps on the Dondo, and it seemed fine. Then I went out on the H-D and on the first lap, instantly lost the front end in a quick right. I tumbled a good deal, but the bike didn't and wasn't in bad shape; didn't even break the windscreen. I had to clean a lot of dirt and replace the throttle cable, but was able to kick it straight for the race. First I was out on the Dondo and this time, Ryan blew the start when he missed the 1st to 2nd shift, and I grabbed the lead. On the 2nd lap, Alex with Ryan in tow, came by, but I got them both back in traffic. Ryan then gathered it up and disappeared in the distance. Alex and I went back a forth a bit before he slowly crept away. Again I was 3rd, but we put on a good show. I was very tentative in the 350gp having crashed in practice and Germain again gapped me. After a few laps, I was picking it up and closing on him. Then I saw a few raindrops on my faceshield and I backed right out of it. That same lap, Germain crashed exactly where I had. He was far enough ahead for me to have time to slow right down, but I still tucked the front end, though I was able to save it. Then someone else crashed in that corner and they red flagged the race. Scoring reverted to the previous lap, so Paul won it, but at a great cost as he broke his thumb and pinky and had a deep gash on his right hand.
I got back home Tues. night and the next day decide to race at Summit Point, W.Va. in a WERA race that weekend. At first I thought I wouldn't race the H-D Aermacchi as I had some crash damage to repair and my front tire was very worn. But, then I realize I had a new front tire and took it with the two bikes on Fri. to Summit. I did a practice on the Dondo and it seemed fine, but didn't get the 350 out what with changing the tire and gearing during practice. It showered some and the track had plenty of wet patches when we started the 500gp race on the Dondo. I worked my way into the class lead but then Rich Midgely came by on his CB 350 Honda. I was definitely sliding on my skinny 21" tires in the wet and Rich had the advantage there, but I had motor on him and we went back and forth many times. He dove under me into the final turn and held me off for the class win. Good stuff. It rained some more before the 350gp and I went out on a very wet track with a front tire that hadn't turned a lap. I tiptoed around initially, but started to gain some confidence and worked my way into the overall lead. Then, on the 6th of 8 laps, I tucked the front end and fell on the same side as at Tx. But, this was a much slower corner and, again, I didn't break the windscreen. Midgely inherited the lead and copped another win.
I've had a couple of weeks to catch my breath, then Wed. I fly to LAX to race at Willow Springs on the weekend. There I'm racing Mike Bungay's 350 Aermacchi along side Ari Henning on another of Bungay's Aermacchis. I'm also racing Gary Roper's (we haven't figured out how we're related, if at all) 1951 Velocette MAC.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Click the Oliver Godfrey tab above to see the developing story of the first Mountain Course TT champion.  The new Indian Racers tab is where we are trying to fill in some information about the rest of the Indian team.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Indian racer will commemorate 100th anniversary of historic Isle of Man Tourist Trophy win

Barely 100 years have passed since a team of Indian motorcycles swept the first three places at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, and now another Indian entry is set to commemorate this historic victory of the first and only American brand to win a TT race. 

A replica of the special 580 cc Indian TT model V-twin has been built by Canadian entrant Peter Gagan and on Friday, June 10, 2011 it will lead the centenary parade lap for historic machines. The rider will be Dave Roper, the first American ever to win an Isle of Man TT. Roper has a lifetime of achievement in vintage racing, including more than 20 AHRMA national championships as well as his win of the 1984 Senior Classic TT on a G50 Matchless.

Roper will be first of 26 starters in the “Milestones of the Mountain” parade lap, leading such legends as Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read and current TT star John McGuinness. They and their famous machines represent highlights in the history of the Tourist Trophy  in the 100 years since its adoption of the full 37.73 mile Mountain Course. The TT was first held on a shorter course starting in 1907.

The Indian factory’s star rider in the 1911 Senior Tourist Trophy race was Canadian-born board track legend Jacob DeRosier, supported by three local riders from England and Ireland. In the event, though, DeRosier suffered tire failure and was disqualified for accepting outside help while Oliver Godfrey, Charles Franklin and Arthur Moorhouse swept the first three places.

Their mounts were special machines built at the Indian factory in Springfield, Mass., to comply with TT rules. Single-cylinder machines were limited to 500 cc displacement while twins, which operated less efficiently with the atmospherically-opened inlet valves which were common at the time, were given an 80 cc advantage. Chief engineer Oscar Hedstrom adapted a 680 cc Indian “little twin” with a smaller cylinder bore and added a two-speed transmission from the company’s 1,000 cc “big twin” to cope with the demands of the hilly Isle of Man course.

None of these special machines survived intact to the present day, but fortunately about 10 years ago Peter Gagan located a 580 cc Indian racing engine in England. It may have been from one of the original TT machines but the records that could verify it do not exist. Working from his home in White Rock, British Columbia, Gagan constructed a replica using a 1911 Indian frame and transmission. No drawings of the TT bikes exist, so the frame modifications and exhaust pipes had to be fabricated according to photographs of the originals. The machine bears Godfrey’s race number 26.

Gagan has a lifetime of experience with early motorcycles, having been a member for more than 50 years of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, of which he is past president. He has also served as president of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation and was founder of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group.

Gagan and his team are eager to hear from potential sponsors of this historic return to the legendary Isle of Man. They can be reached at

Please note also the Paypal link elsewhere on this page to help Dave Roper with the considerable expense of attending this historic event.

Pictured below is young Oliver Godfrey, aboard #26 - this and other photographs were used in Gagan's restoration of the motorcycle to be ridden by Dave Roper.