Sunday, January 29, 2012

This picture of the ERTT was taken in the Daytona pits in 3/07, I believe by Henny Ray Abrams

I started my 350 H-D Sprint ERTT today after having it apart for winter maintenance. I found a couple of dogs had broken off the 4th gear on the layshaft. I got a new gear from Rudolf Jungjohann in Germany through Leslie at Moto Italia, in Petaluma, Ca. I noticed that the cylinder head looked like it was touching the muff of the cylinder, preventing a good contact between the cylinder liner and the surface around the combustion chamber. This was probably because the gasket I was using around the push rod tunnel was too thick, cocking the head slightly and causing the surface around the combustion chamber to mush out a bit. I made a fixture to hold the head centered in the lathe and squared up both surfaces. I debated changing the piston, which has 2420 racing miles on it but, after a careful inspection, decided to leave it. I did throw in new rings, however. I changed the right fork seal, too.
I have a secret test site about 5-6 miles from my house in an industrial area with a good hill, which aids starting. It took a few pushes to get it started after I over flooded it. I turned off the fuel and gave it a couple of pushes with full throttle. I finally got it started and warmed it up a bit when it stalled because I had forgotten to turn the fuel taps back on. But, it started right back up again and I rode it around a bit. It's a little tight there, but I was just able to get it into 5th gear without stalling it. However, the shift seems stiff and doesn't want to 're-cock' and I found I had to just barely push down on the shifter before lifting up on it to downshift. I'm thinking this might 'settle in' or might not be an issue when I'm really revving it, but I don't think I can count on that. I think I'm going to have to take off the clutch and timing cover and examine the selector spring. I'm not going to split the cases again as I don't see how it could be internal. I didn't remove the shift drum when I replaced the gear. Anyway, the first race is at Roebling Road, near Savannah, Ga., and it a track where one doesn't shift that much and I could probably manage as it is now.
Anyway, I was please that it didn't leak oil or smoke, so it's pretty ready.
Steve Budney sent me a couple of photos of Skip Aksland he had taken in the good ol' days.

Steve thinks it's Daytona '77. Skip was up to 4th place when the clutch failed around the 22nd lap and was credited with 48th place.

This is from Loudon '78, with Rich Schlachter #48 nipping at Skips heels. Skip won the race with Mike Baldwin 2nd and Rich 3rd. The Californian beat the two New Englanders at their home track.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I got a great book as a Xmas present last month: The Art of the Racing Motorcycle, 100 Years of Designing for Speed by Phillip Tooth with photography by Jean-Pierre Praderes, by Universe Publishing. After a good introduction, the book profiles 51 different race bikes. It's a large format book (12"ish X 9"ish), and devotes two to six pages to each bike in chronological order starting with a 1902 Manon and ending with Rossi's 2010 Yamaha M-1., though the bulk of the bikes are from the twenties through the eighties (46 bikes are represented in 70 years). Perhaps because the photographer is French (I assume), there are a good number of French bikes included. But, the author trumps the photographer as there are twice as many British bikes. Or, maybe their nationalities have nothing to do with it, as there are even more Italian bikes profiled. The bikes range from rare works exotica like the '39 AJS supercharged V4, to production racers like the '69 TD-2 Yamaha, to the converted street bikes like the Egli-Vincent, but with the emphasis on the rare works exotica. The photography is superb, both studio and archival. Many of the bikes are unrestored and look just like the came off the track. Standouts for me include the '23 Peugeot DOHC twin, the '31 MGC, the '53 Nougier 500/4, the '60 Moto Morini DOHC 250 single, the '68 Yamaha RA31A 125 V4, and the '76 Morbidelli-MBA 125 twin but, there's not a dud included. And, regular readers will understand why I think the photo of Charles Franklin, in an alley with his JAP powered Chater-Lea special in 1905, is worth the price of admission in itself. While I ran across a couple of errors or typos, they were minor and I whole heartedly recommend this book.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is Part 2 of a review of Skip Aksland's career, so if you haven't seen the first part, you might want to scroll down and read it first.
In 1977 Skip's career really took off beating a World Champion, first racing over seas and first AMA National win.

The '77 season started with the Houston Astrodome and Skip won the Trophy Dash on a bike powered by a Yamaha 250 MX motor

At Daytona, he only qualified 15th, but was up to 4th when his clutch failed and he was a DNF. Then, immediately on to the Charlotte roadrace where he finished 2nd to Kenny Roberts. Two weeks after that, he raced at the invitational bike race at the Long Beach F-1 car race. There he won, beating among others, Barry Sheene, the reigning 500 World Champion. In less than a week he did his first Transatlantic Match Race series in the U.K. At Brands Hatch, he finished 3rd & 3rd; at Mallory Park 6th & 6th; and at Oulton Park 5th & DNS? DNF? This ranked him 6th overall individual points scorer. At Loudon, Skip was 3rd behind Roberts and Nixon. At Sears Point, Skip won the Lightweight race and finished 2nd to Kenny Roberts in the 750 race. Pocono he was again 2nd to Kenny Roberts. At the Laguna Seca round of the Formula 750 World Championship, Skip won the first 100km leg and was 2nd in the second leg, beating Steve Baker's 3rd and 1st and winning $8185.

Skip leads Steve Baker through the Corkscrew on his was to winning the F-750 World Championship race a Laguna Seca 11 Sept. '77

Kenny Roberts was at the Syracuse Mile trying to win the Grand National Championship for Yamaha. The season ended on a down note at the Riverside AMA roadrace. In practice, Skip was following Roberts with a camera on his bike, filming for a Yamaha promotional piece. Skip crashed and broke his clavicle and wrist and missed the season finale at Ascot.

Skip at the San Jose Half Mile, 2 July, '77 on an XR 750 H-D

Skip in the 23 July, '77 Ascot TT on an XS 750 Yamaha

Skip made big progress on the dirt tracks side in '77, also. He started racing an XR 750 H-D in the Miles and Half Miles, while continuing to race Yamahas in the road race, Short track and TTs. This culminated with Skip winning the San Jose Mile in Sept., beating all the dirt track greats like Springsteen, the Scott brothers, Mike Kidd, Steve Eklund, Gene Romero, and Kenny Roberts.

Skip inside his old sparring partner, Kenny Roberts, on his way to winning the 25 Sept. '77 San Jose Mile

While Skip had missed some of the '76 season due to injuries sustain at a non-National Ascot race, his injuries at Riverside foreshadowed worse to come. Despite this, Skip finished the 1977 season 9th in the Grand National Championship and 2nd in roadrace points to Kenny Roberts.

In 1978, with Roberts going off to Europe to contest the GP's, it was thought that Skip had a good shot at winning the AMA Grand National championship. The season started well with a 6th in the Astrodome Short Track and a 3rd in the Daytona 200 behind Roberts and Johnny Cecotto (after qualifying 4th). Then it was off to the Transatlantic Match races again, which wasn't as successful as the previous year. With a 8th & 5th at Brands Hatch, a 13th & DNS?/DNF? at Mallory Park, and a 6th & DNS?/DNF? at Oulton Park, Skip was 11th overall on individual points. From England it was immediately off to the Formula 750 World Championship round at Imola where Skip had a flat tire in the first leg and finished 6th in the second. Next weekend was the next F-750 round at Circuit Paul Ricard, but ignition failure meant he didn't finish either leg. Four weeks later, it was back to the AMA GNC at the San Jose Mile where Skip finished 2nd to Garth Brow. The next weekend it was 2nd again at the Ascot Half Mile, this time to Alex Jorgensen on Ron Woods Norton twin(the last Norton to win a AMA National). This put Skip in the lead for the Grand National Championship with 54 points to Springsteen's 51. While Springsteen took the lead back with his win at the next race, the Denver Half Mile, Skip stayed 2nd in points through the next several races, which included his win at Loudon. Then, the championship drive went off the rails when he broke his clavicle again at the Santa Fe Short Track. Skip missed the next four Nationals including two he had traditionally done well at: the San Jose Half Mile and Ascot TT. He came back for the Sears Point road race, but crashed and separated and/or dislocated his shoulder. This puts him out for the next 11 Nationals. He came back for the Canadian round ot the F-750 World Campionship at Mosport and was 4th behind Mike Baldwin, Kenny Roberts and Yvon DuHamel. In the last two AMA Nationals he got an 8th in the San Jose Mile and 11th in the Ascot Half Mile. Again, he finished 9th in the Grand National Championship, and 5th in the roadraces, despite missing much of the season. He finished up the season by going back to Imola for the AGV Nations Cup where he finished 3rd in the USA vs Rest of the World, 4th in USA vs Rest of World?, and 4th in USA vs UK, for a 9th overall in individual points. The only photo I have from '78 is this one from the AGV Nations Cup program.

1979 started with a 5th in the Astrodome TT. Great things were expected at Daytona where Skip had been given Kenny Roberts bikes, as Kenny was recovering from breaking his back in Japan testing. Skip won the Lightweight race ahead of the young upstart Freddie Spencer.

Skip on his way to winning the Lightweight race at Daytona in '79

Skip qualified 2nd for the 200, but the bike seized starting the 2nd lap putting him out. He next went to the San Jose Mile and won his heat, but only got a 12th in the final. The next weekend at the Ascot Half Mile, Skip broke his clavicle again. But, four weeks later, he finished 13th at the Middletown, N.Y. Half Mile. Once when I was marveling to Dick Mann about Eddie Lawson winning the '86 French GP at Paul Ricard a week after breaking his collarbone at Laguna and Scott Russell finishing on the podium Sun. after breaking his collarbone Thurs. at Loudon, he said it's not too bad before the bone has knitted at all. It's when the bone starts to knit one has to watch it. The next weekend, now five weeks from breaking his collarbone, Skip won the Loudon roadrace again. In July, Skip again went to Imola for the AGV Nations Cup and was 4th in France vs USA; 4th in Rest of the World vs USA; 2nd in UK vs USA; and 3rd in USA vs Italy. The next weekend, Skip finished 2nd to Roberts at Sears Point. Then 8th at both the Ascot TT and the DuQuoin Mile, the next two weekends. At Laguna Seca, his bike seized on the last lap of he first leg and he didn't score any points. In Sept., he got an 8th in the Indy Mile and a 2nd in the San Jose Mile. Skip ended up out of the top ten in the GNC points, but was 4th in road race points because there were only three road races that year.
Skip shoulder had become a huge problem, with him being able to throw it out of joint with the least provocation. At the 1980 Daytona 200, he was running 2nd or third, but faded to 4th because of his shoulder.

Skip on the grid for the '80 Daytona 200

He went to the Transatlantic Match races again in '80 and got a 6th & 7th at Brands Hatch; 12th & 9th at Mallory Park; and 6th & 5th at Oulton Park for 4th highest scoring American behind Roberts, Spencer and Mamola. Six weeks later, Skip contested the 500GP World Championship round at Jarama, Spain on Serge Zago's Yamaha, but crashed and broke his knee cap. That was the last straw and he decided to pack it in.
Skip went back home and started working for Fed-Ex. After delivering packages for sometime, he started his own delivery company in Modesto, which was a big success. He sold the company and retired some years back. He plays with bikes a bit, but can't ride sport bikes with low bars because of his shoulder. He's built a couple of XT/SR 500 Yamahas for his son and himself and plays in the dirt some.
All told, a very impressive career in the 'all rounder' tradition of Dick Mann and Kenny Roberts, possibly cut short by a some what fragile upper body. Or maybe just bad luck, a huge part of racing.

1974 Novice roadrace, Junior dirt track

3/8 Daytona rr 2nd Yam
6/2 Road Atlanta rr DNF crash Yam
6/15 Loudon, N.H rr 1st Yam
7/12 Ascot tt ? Yam, XS 750
7/27 Laguna Seca rr 1st Yam
8/31 Talladega rr 1st Yam
10/6 Ontario, Ca. rr 1st Yam
10/12 Ascot hm ? Yam

1975 Junior roadrace, Expert dirt track

3/8? Daytona rr 4th jr. Yam won $280
3/8   Daytona Am/Ex L.W.  13th   Yam TZ250
5/18 San Jose m 9th Yam 1st in 2nd semi
7/26 Ascot tt 14th Yam
8/3 Laguna Seca rr 13th jr/ex LWYam
8/3 Laguna Seca rr 3rd jr. Yam
8/15 Hindsdale, il st 16th Yam, MX 250 2nd in Trophy Race
8/23 Indianapolis m 18th Yam, TZ 750 one of six built
9/21 San Jose m 13th Yam, TZ 750, 1st in Semi
9/27 Ascot hm 2nd to K.R Yam qualified 9th, 2nd in heat
10/4 Ontario, Ca. Am/Ex L.W.  9th Yam TZ250
10/5 Ontario, Ca. rr 1st jr. Yam

1976 Expert roadrace & dirt track

1/24 Houston st 8th in Yam, MX250 qualified 6th, 2nd in Semi
Trophy dash
3/6 Daytona Am/Ex L.W. 80th (1 lap) Yam TZ250
3/7 Daytona rr 66th, crash Yam qualified 5th, tangled w/lapee while in 4th
"Skip missed part of the 1976 season due to injuries sustained in a race at Ascot early in the season…", apparently a non-national
6/4 Pontiac stadium tt 6th Yam
6/20 Loudon rr 8th Yam
7/10 San Jose hm 5th Yam, XS750
7/31 Laguna Seca Am/Ex L.W. 4th  Yam TZ250
8/1 Laguna Seca rr 7th & 8th=8thYam
8/28 Indianapolis m 8th Yam
9/5 Talladega st 10th Yam, MX250
9/12 Syracuse m 12th Yam
9/26 San Jose m 7th Yam
10/3 Riverside rr 6th Yam 3rd in heat, protest G.Scott
10/9 Ascot hm 3rd Yam 1st in heat
12th in championship points for season


3/13 Daytona rr 48th, DNF Yam qualified 15th, up to 4th,clutch
3/20 Charlotte rr 2nd to K.R. Yam
4/3 Long Beach rr 1st Yam non-AMA invitational, beat Sheene
4/8 Brands Hatch rr 3rd & 3rd Yam Trans Atlantic Match Race
4/10 Mallory Park rr 6th & 6th Yam series,
4/11 Oulton Park rr 5th & DNS? Yam 6th overall individual

5/15 San Jose m 8th H-D Storme Winter XR, first points with XR 750 despite 'a major carburetion issue'
6/19 Loudon rr 3rd Yam behind K.R. & Nixon; 2nd in heat to Nixon
6/26 Columbus hm didn't make it to the Main, not one of his favorite tracks
72 San Jose hm 14th H-D John Apple XR
7/16 Sears Point rr 1st L.W. Yam
7/17 Sears Point rr 2nd to K.R. Yam
7/23 Ascot tt 9th Yam, XS750
8/12 Hindsdale st 9th Yam, MX250
8/14 Terre Haute hm 8th H-D
8/21 Pocono rr 2nd to K.R. Yam
8/27 Indianapolis m DNS blew up motor in heat, 'found valve guide in air cleaner'
8/28 Indianapolis m 8th H-D rode Romero's spare bike, 1st fastest heat, wore hole in primary cover in final
9/4 Middletown hm DNS? H-D
9/11 Laguna Seca rr 1st & 2nd=1stYam F-750 world championship, K.R. at Syracuse
9/25 San Jose m 1st H-D Storme Winter XR, 1st in slowest heat
10/2 Riverside rr DNS Yam crashed in practice filming w/K.R. (for Peter Starr film 'Take it to the limit') breaking clavicle and wrist
9th overall in AMA championship points


2/4 Houston st 6th Yam, MX 250
3/12 Daytona rr 3rd Yam after crashing twice in turn #4 in practice, including Sun. morning
3/24 Brands Hatch rr 8th & 5th Yam Trans Atlantic Match race
3/26 Mallory Park rr 13th& DNF? Yam series.
3/27 Oulton Park rr 6th & DNF? Yam 11th overall individual
4/2 Imola rr DNF & 6th Yam F-750 World Championship, flat tire is 1st heat
4/9 Paul Ricard rr DNF Yam F-750 World Championship, ignition failure
5/7 San Jose m 2nd H-D qualified 5th, 1st in 1st heat
5/13 Ascot hm 2nd H-D leads GNC points
5/27 Denver hm 3rd H-D
6/4 Louisville hm 14th H-D
6/10 Harrington, De. hm 8th H-D
6/18 Loudon rr 1st Yam
6/23 Hindsdale tt DNS? DNF? Tri Terry Sage bike. Broke clavicle?Separated shoulder? Misses next 4 races
7/16 Sears Point rr DNF crash Yam while in lead. dislocated shoulder. Misses next 11 races.
9/10 Laguna Seca rr 2nd in the first 100km leg; DNF second leg with 'broken coil' Yam F-750 World Championship
9/17 Mosport rr 5th in first leg, 4th in second leg=4th overall Yam F-750 World Championship
9/24 San Jose m 8th H-D
9/30 Ascot hm 11th H-D
10/8 Imola rr 3rd, USA v rest of world AGV Nations Cup
4th, USA v rest of world? 9th individual overall
4th, USA v UK
10/28 Texas World Speedway  WERA GNF crashed in heat dicing for the lead, DNS final Yam
9th overall in AMA championship points

2/2 Houston tt 5th Yam, TT500
3/10 Daytona rr 1st L.W. Yam ahead of Spencer
3/11 Daytona rr 68th DNF Yam Qualified 2nd, siezure 1st lap
5/6 San Jose m 12th H-D 1st in heat, Lawill H-D
5/12 Ascot hm DNS?DNF? H-D Breaks clavicle
6/10 Middletown hm 13th H-D John Apple XR, won trophy race
6/17 Loudon rr 1st Yam
6/22 Hindsdale tt 8th Yam, TT500
7/10 Imola rr 4th France v USA
4th rest of world v USA AGV Nations Cup
2nd UK v USA
3rd USA v Italy
7/15 Sears Point rr 2nd to K.R.
7/21 Ascot tt 8th Yam, TT500
7/29 Duquoin m 8th H-D Lawill XR
8/5 Laguna Seca rr DNF & DNS Yam Seizure on last lap of 1st leg
9/1 Indianapolis m 8th H-D Lawill XR
9/23 San Jose m 2nd H-D Askland XR
9th overall in AMA championship points

3/9 Daytona rr 4th Yam ran 2nd, dropped back to 4th, shoulder
4/4 Brands Hatch rr 6th & 7th Yam Trans Atlantic Match race
4/6 Mallory Park rr 12 & 9th Yam series
4/7 Oulton Park rr 6th & 5th Yam ? overall individual
5/18 Jarama rr DNF? DNF? Yam 500 world Championship GP
Serge Zago bike, crashed and broke kneecap. Last professional race

Friday, January 13, 2012

At the Indianapolis MotoGP I ran into Skip Aksland. Skip and I had both been AMA Novice roadracers in 1974 and, while I was well aware of him, we hadn't really know each other, living on opposite coast. Skip was there with his son Dustin, who's a photographer who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. We had a nice chat and, two months later, Skip and his wife came to Brooklyn to visit Dustin. We all got together and I gave Skip and Dustin a tour of Team Obsolete, then we met Dustin's mother and girlfriend at Bar Matchless to watch the Sepang MotoGP.

Skip Aksland and me in the Team Obsolete shop on 10/24/2011
Dustin Aksland photo

I had known that Skip went on from those novice days to become a great roadracer, but I didn't realize he had been a great dirt tracker, too. I got curious about his career and started researching it. In this day of the internet, if I have a question, I've become used to just Googling it and getting an answer. But, I found that a lot of this information is not archived, and results could only be found by going through old magazines and annuals of the time, like Motocourse. Even Skip wasn't too helpful for much of this as he hadn't kept a log and didn't remember a lot of details.
The rough outline is that Skip's older brother, Bud, was partner in a Suzuki shop in the Modesto area. They started sponsoring a young hot shoe, Kenny Roberts. Kenny and Skip became friends and started riding together, though Kenny is more than five years older than Skip. Skip's dad owned a trucking company and built a dirt track behind the truck yard, and Skip and Kenny would practice there most afternoons.
Skip started his pro career as a dirt track novice in 1973 (I was a roadrace novice in '73)and made many trips to Ascot Park. He won the novice main the first night out and finished season #1 in the series.

This is a picture of Skip on TD-3 Yamaha powered dirt tracker in '73 at Ascot. The motor was one Kenny Roberts had used road racing that Kel Carruthers gave Skip.

In 1974 Skip started roadracing as an AMA Novice, but was a dirt track Junior. In roadracing, Skip was 2nd at Daytona, crashed at Road Atlanta, then won the final four roadraces of '74: Loudon, Laguna Seca, Talladega, and Ontario, Ca., making him the Novice roadracer high points scorer for the season with 98 points.

Skip at Ontario, Ca. in Oct. of 1974 on his way to winning the AMA Novice race and wrapping up top Novice roadracer for the season.

I haven't found many of his individual Junior dirt track results, other than winning the Ascot TT Gold Cup, beating Jay Springsteen. But for the Junior season points, Skip was tied for 5th in Miles, 4th in Half Miles.

This is from the 20 July, '74 Ascot TT. #72y is Skip on an XS 750 Yamaha ahead of Jay Springsteen, #65x on an XR750 H-D

In 1975, Skip becomes a Junior roadracer and Expert dirt tracker. There were only three AMA roadraces in '75 and Skip was 4th at Daytona(winning $280), 3rd at Laguna Seca(and 13th in the Jr/Ex Lightweight race on a TZ 250), and won at Ontario riding a TZ 750 Yamaha.

Skip on his way to winning the AMA Junior race at Ontario Motor Speedway on 5 Oct. 1975 on a TZ750

I don't have too many dirt track results, but high points to his rookie expert year were winning his heat at the 18 May San Jose Mile and finishing 9th in the final on an XS 750; racing one of the six TZ 750 dirt trackers at the Indy Mile and (the 2nd) San Jose Mile, finishing 18th and 13th respectively; and finishing 2nd behind Kenny Roberts at the season final Ascot Half Mile, after qualifying 9th and finishing 2nd in his heat.

Skip on a TZ 750 dirt tracker, one of six built, at the 21 Sept., 1975 San Jose Mile.

In '76, Skip's number changed from 72 to 27. There were four AMA roadraces that season. At Daytona, Skip qualified 5th, but crashed when he tangled with a lapee. He was 8th at Loudon. At Laguna Seca he was 4th in the lightweight race and finished 7th and 8th in the two legs of the 750 race, resulting in an 8th overall. At Riverside he was 3rd in his heat and 6th in the final. This made him tied for 7th in roadrace points with Yvon DuHamel and Gary Scott. Skip had a number of decent placing in the dirt track Nationals with a best finish of 5th in the 10 July San Jose Half Mile and ended up 12th in the Grand National championship.

Skip on his way to 5th in the 7/10/'76 San Jose Half Mile on an XS 750 Yamaha.

That year Kenny Roberts, Gary Scott and Jay Springsteen were contenders for the Championship and Skip was involved in some drama in the penultimate race of the year at Riverside. Skip protested Gary Scott's result (for Roberts/Yamaha) as Gary was late for his heat. That protest was denied, but in reprisal, Scott claimed Robert's winning TZ 750. It was all moot as Springsteen blew everyone away at the Ascot Half Mile final (after crashing in practice) and won the championship.
To be continued...