Saturday, November 16, 2013

I just finished my annual compilation of the season racing results.  For 2013 I participated in 15 road race events, the most I've done since 2006.  This was at 15 different venues, again the most since '06.  Three of these I had never been to before: NOLA (New Orleans), The Ridge (Shelton, Wa.), and NJMP (Millville, N.J.).  Talladega (Alabama) and Sears Point (Ca.) were substantially altered since the last time I was there.  I entered 60 individual races and started 57 of them, the most since 2005.  I did this on 13 different bikes, the most since 2010, owned by 11 different people.  I got 33 firsts, 11 seconds, 5 thirds, and 4 DNFs.  One of those DNFs was a crash and one of the DNSs was a crash (on the warmup lap), and I had two practice crashes, one of which I'd call 'not my fault/being in the wrong place at the wrong time'.  Four crashes in a season is considerably above the 2.5 crash/season I've had over the last 12 years, but fortunately I didn't get hurt in any of them and raced the same or next day after all of them.
In addition to these races, I did the Parades at the Classic TT(Manx GP), a couple of Tiddler Tours, the Fall Giro, and the Pewter run.  2013 has been a busy, successful and satisfying year.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My friend and occasional sponsor, Tom Marquardt, forwarded me some photos that were sent to him of me racing a Team Obsolete G-50/7R.
Me racing a Team Obsolete G-50/7R, but where and when?  photo by Gordon Kerr
 I didn't recognize the venue, but thought it had to be over seas because the number four on the bike is not one I've used in the states, to my recollection.  When Tom told me the fellow who sent him the photos, Gordon Brown, was Scottish, I wondered if it could be Knockhill.  I raced at this great little circuit in sight of the Firth of the Forth Bridge on 4-5 July, 1987, and remember having some great races with a bloke on Greeves Oulton while I raced a AJS 7R.  We had just come from Assen where they had a classic race as a preliminary to the Dutch TT.  I was to race Matchless G-50 1709, the ex-Al Gunter bike with which we had won the IOM TT in '84.  But, in the last practice at Assen, the crank pin broke.  We had a freshly rebuilt 7R motor with us.  (A G-50 is 500cc and a 7R is 350cc, but the motors are virtually identical except for the bore.)  This 7R motor had last run at Daytona earlier that year when it holed a piston on the cool off lap after I had just won the 350GP race.  We rebuilt the motor, put it in a box, and put it in a big Iveco truck along with a bunch of bikes and spares, and shipped it to Europe.  So, at Assen, I petitioned the organizers to let me change classes from 500 to 350.  They said OK, but that I would have to start from the back of the grid, as I had not qualified on that motor.  We set about swapping motors, which should have been quite straight forward, but this particular motor had never been in this chassis before and seemed to fight us the whole way.  While we were doing this, my mother and brother arrived.  They were on a holiday and had just come from Belgium.  My mother had never seen me race, in fact, had never been to a race.  They enjoyed the banter as Bard Donovan, Steve Griffiths, Alf Montford and I struggled with this motor swap.  As we finished up, my mother and brother went to the stands for the European Championship race that immediately preceded the Classic race so my brother could explain to my mother what was going on.
I started the 7R and tried to ride it around the paddock to get as much running time as possible on this freshly rebuilt motor.  The rings weren't seated and it was oiling and 8 stroking like crazy and then fouled a plug.  We put in a new plug, but it was still 8 stroking and smoking and running terribly.  And, It looked like rain was coming.  I thought that I had dragged my mother to Holland to watch me NOT start the race, in the rain.  Time to go and the motor is running poorly on the sighting lap and, when I come to the grid, the motor just about dies, but I managed to keep it running a little longer until we have to kill the motors for the push start.  They flag off the 500's in the first wave, then the 350's.  I pushed as hard and fast as I could and the motor a goes putt.........putt..........putt.......putt....All the other bikes are gone and the Safety Car passes me to follow the pack on the first lap, and I'm still going putt......putt........putt.......putt.  The motor finally picks up and I take off.  I've got a clear track and I find that when I'm beating on it hard, the motor runs great.  I start catching people.  I start catching a lot of people.  On the last lap, I pass the leader of the 350 class, and turn the fastest lap of the race, 500's included.  There was the traditional podium scene with the champagne (Alan Cathcart won the 500 class on his Paton) and later that evening there was a prize giving at a fancy venue downtown.  It turned out to be the perfect event for my mother to come to.
So, we load up and drive to Scotland for the Bob McIntyre Memorial Classic races at Knockhill, picking up Dick Mann, who's going to race a pre-'65 motocross race at the same meeting, on the way.
There were three races for each class each day.  The Greeves Oulton would get the lighting start while the 7R would be all oiled up and take a while to clear.  As each race went on, the Greeves would slow a bit as it got hot and the 7R would get faster.  Sometimes I caught the Greeves; sometimes I didn't.
But, I was troubled, because the bike in the photo had a 230mm Ceriani 4LS front brake and 1709 had a 210mm Fontana 4LS front brake.  When I checked our records at Team Obsolete, I found that I had totally forgotten that I had also raced another G-50 (4825) in the 500 class and this chassis did have a 230 Ceriani.  We had a lot of trouble with this bike because of what ultimately turned out to be a faulty magneto.  Saturday, I got a 5th, a DNF, and a DNS.  Sunday, a DNF, a 1st when we ran the bike without the fairing lowers, and a DNS.
Racing at Knockhill 5 July, 1987 with no fairing lowers trying to diagnose a running problem.  Gordon Kerr photo
When I related all this to Gordon Brown, he replied that he still sees the pilot of that
Greeves Oulton, Joey Mulholand, and he sent me a photo of him and Joey racing.
One can't see much, but that's Joey Mulholand on his Greeves Oulton, this time racing Gordon Brown.  Gordon Kerr photo
Also a pit scene of the AJS 7R3 with Dick Mann in the background.
A pit scene from Knockhill: the Team Obsolete '54 AJS 7R3 and behind it, from left to right, Dick Mann, Steve Griffiths, me, and Bard Donovan.  To the right is Dick's pre-'65 MX bike  in front of the Iveco van that we brought everything in.  Gordon Brown photo

Friday, November 8, 2013

Like the last two years, the season ended for me with the Barber Vintage festival and Daytona.  I had committed to racing at the Island Classic at Phillip Island in Jan., 2014 which meant loading my bike into a container right after getting back from Daytona.  I was getting concerned with how much time was on my 350 Sprint and having no time to go through it after Daytona.  So, when Tom Marquardt offered me a ride on his 492cc Honda CB400F, I gratefully accepted and decided not to race the Sprint at Barber, though, since Tom wasn't going on to Daytona, I would race the Sprint there. 
Tom Marquardt's 492cc CB400F Honda

 I also brought my Moto Guzzi Dondolino, into which I had just installed newly rebuilt roller rocker cam followers, one of which had failed at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
In Friday practice at Barber, I went out on Tom's Honda first and it seemed good initially, but started to misfire after a few laps.  While Tom was looking into that, I first took out the Dondolino, then the Sprint, just to make sure it was OK in case I needed it as a fall back.  After practice on the Dondolino, once again I found huge intake valve lash.  I took off the timing cover to find the intake rocker roller flopping around on it's spindle.  When I removed the  roller, I found that it's bush was totally bagged out and cracked.  Dave and Al Hollingsworth volunteered to take the pieces to a local machine shop which agreed to make a new bushing.
Because of my brilliant photography, it's difficult to see the cam followers, but they're just to the right of the tent pole.
The Sprint seemed good and I parked it.
In the mean time, Tom decided the problem with the misfire was the battery and he installed a new one.    Again, initially it seemed good, but then started to misfire at high revs.  On the third lap, I got on the gas too early/hard and spun the bike out in the 180 degree hairpin turn #5.  I was a nice gentle lowside and I just slid on my ass watching the bike slide ahead of me off the track without digging in or flipping.  There was very little damage to either of us; it didn't even break the windscreen on the bike.  I wish all my crashed were like that.  It did bend the shift lever which then cracked when Tom tried to straighten it, but he got Andrew Cowell to repair it during the lunch break.
Tom's pit.  A hotrod Civic is the tow vehicle pulling a home made trailer with independent suspension.
The Honda has a very close ratio gearbox which made me think I had to shift down to 2nd for the slow hairpin.  But Tom pointed out the bike has a very broad powerband and I decided to try to take the corner in 3rd and get on the gas before it came 'on the cam'.  This worked well though I was perhaps still a bit gun shy getting on the gas here.  And we still had the high rpm misfire.
Tom finally figured out that the problem was the kill switch which apparently was vibrating at high rpms and intermittently killing the spark.  He disconnected the kill switch for the next practice and the bike ran like a banshee.  I put a bunch of laps in getting my brake points down until the chain came off. This was because the cush drive in the rear wheel had collapsed, putting it's race worthiness in doubt.
In the mean time, the Hollingsworths had come back from the machine shop with a couple of new bushings and I carefully reassembled the timing chest on the Dondo.  I didn't get this done before practice was finished, but I was able to ride the bike around the pits and it seemed alright.
There's no practice at Barber on race days (to give more time to have more races with fewer bike on the track at any one time) and we went right into racing Sat. morning at 8am.  I wa able to do a 'scrub lap' in one of the early races to check out the repair Tom had done to the rear hub, basically eliminating the cush, and it seemed OK.  I was out first in race 6 on Tom's Honda.  The 350GP class was gridded first with Formula 500, which I was in, next in the second wave and Sportsman 500 the third wave.  I knew from practice times and past performance that my competition would be Nick Cole, who had come from New Zealand with an incredibly quick Norton ES2.  The ES2 is a 500 pushrod single that was one of the more pedestrian plodders that Norton made.  But, Nick's sponsor and the bike's builder, Peter Lodge has transform it into a ripper.  And, Nick is a superb rider and all the more impressive because he is a really big guy.  The ES2 motor is in a Manx chassis with a 6 speed TT Industries gearbox.  The bike primary class is 500 Premiere and so has a Manx 4LS drum brake and Nick was 'bumping up' into the Formula 500 class.
We got off the line pretty evenly, but Nick was on the inside going into turn #1 and then pulled pretty steadily away.  We ended up passing all the 350GP riders by the 2nd lap, so I ended up 2nd in class and overall, but my fastest lap was almost 2.2 seconds slower than Nick's, though faster than everyone else.
Photo by Fred Sahms
I was out in race #10 on the Dondolino, gridded behind the 250GP in the 2nd wave.  The race started fine but I soon started loosing ground and wasn't pulling as many revs on the straights.  When the motor  misfired, I was finally convinced that all wasn't well and I pulled off, seeing the last lap white flag as I pulled down the pit lane.  Once again, there was huge intake valve lash and when I pulled the timing cover off again, I found bronze swarf  everywhere as the bush had disintegrated.  I decided then that I wasn't going to try to get it repaired for Sunday (or Daytona, for that matter) and wasn't going to run it until I took the motor completely apart and determined what was causing this cam follower problem.
So, for Sunday, I change my Class 'C' entry for Formula 750 in addition to F-500.  In the F-500 race, I got a good start and even got into the lead when Nick Cole got baulked by one of the 350GP riders, but he was soon past and pulling away.  
I'm about to pass Stu Carter on his Seeley AJS 7R from the first wave.  Fred Sahms photo
But, as we finished the first lap, there was a red flag and we all returned to the pit lane.  Tom was concerned we (Thad Wolfe was riding Tom's CB77 based racer in 350GP) might not have enough fuel and went to get some more.  But, the incident was cleaned up quickly and we were off before Tom got back with more fuel.  On the restart, I didn't get as good a launch as the first start and Chris Spargo on his RD 400 Yamaha based racer got a killer start and got ahead of Nick. 

 I started to have some shifting problems where the bike didn't want to downshift and several corners I was force to exit in too tall a gear.  I dropped back from the leaders while Nick got by Chris.  After a couple of laps, I had no more shifting problems and tried to close on Chris. 
Fred Sahms photo
 On the last lap, I made a big effort and two corners from the end I got into a huge slide and tank slapper, almost throwing it away.  
Smoke from oil from the cracked oil cooler getting on the exhaust headers (and the rear tire).  Fred Sahms photo
I told myself to calm down and took the checkered flag in third.  Then on the cool off lap, I was given the black flag. I immediately pulled off at the exit of turn #5, to find the bike had been leaking oil some of which got on the rear tire causing that slide.  Apparently the bike had been smoking increasingly towards the end as oil was coming out of a crack in the oil cooler and getting on the exhaust unbeknownst to me.  Once again, I cheated death.  
There was no way to repair the leak before the F-750 race, so that was the end of my weekend.  I had the satisfaction of knowing that my fastest lap was about 0.6 seconds faster on Sun. than Sat., but Nick Coles was more than a second faster and Chris Spargo, who didn't start Saturdays F-500 race, went almost 2 second faster than he did in the later F-750 race.
Another view of Tom's rig.

After loading up, we made it just short of Columbus, Georgia.  The next day we got to Savannah and spent three delightful days in that beautiful city.  Then on to Daytona where we raced Fri. and Sat. the 18th & 19th of Oct.  
Now back on the 350 H-D Sprint ERTT, Fridays morning practice went fine, though Jack Parker came by me on the banking on his very quick DT1 250 Yamaha but immediately backed out of it as we overtook a slower rider.  
After winning both 250GP and 350GP races at Barber, Paul Germain seized at Daytona.  Here he's installing his spare motor, which wasn't nearly as quick.
The 350GP race was again run with F-500, but this time F-500 was gridded more sensibly in front with Classic 60's and 500 Sportsman gridded behind us.  Nick Cole again blasted away from the start with Brian Oakley on a RD 400 based racer a distant 2nd.  Jack Parker led the 350GPs with me in close attendance through the infield.  Jack went way wide going out on the west banking and I went underneath him.  On the 2nd or 3rd lap, Jack stuck a wheel along side me braking for turn #2 but I backed him down.  I was starting to close on Brian Oakley and on the last lap I thought if I could get a good draft off him coming out of the chicane, I might be able to hold Jack off.  But, Brian went too slowly through the chicane and I had to pass him.  Sure enough, coming off NASCAR #4, Jack motored by me and finished less than half a sec. in front of me.  
Peter Lodge's ES2 Norton, which Nick Cole rode to seven wins out of eight starts.
The crate the ES2 came in from New Zealand.  The bike fit in there WITH all those spares and more.
Saturday's race was more interesting.  Nick Cole again disappeared.  Brian Oakley's bike had broken in practice, so he wasn't a factor.  Again, Jack Parker led the 350GPs through the infield; again he went way wide going out on the banking and again I went underneath him.  But this time, first Brad Phillips came by on his 500 BMW Sportsman bike, then Jack came by and we finished the first lap in that order.  On the next lap, Alex McLean on Bob McKeever's 500 Manx Norton Classic 60's bike leap frogged us all and Jack got by Brad and I finished the 2nd lap behind Brad.  On the third lap, I got by Brad and swapped back and forth with Jack and Alex and we finished that lap with the order Alex, Jack, me, then Brad.  More swapping back and forth and we finished the 4th lap: Alex, me, Jack, Brad.    On the last lap, I passed Jack braking for the chicane and Alex in the chicane, but they both came by on the run to the finish and Alex finished 42 and a half seconds behind Nick Cole, with Jack a little over 0.3 seconds behind Alex and me 0.4 sec. behind Jack and Brad 3/4 sec. behind me, less than 1.5 seconds between the four of us.  Good fun.
Jack Parker's very quick DT-1 Yamaha, winner of both 250GP and 350GP races at Daytona.
Nick Cole finally got beat in Sunday's 500 Premiere race by Tim Joyce on Maurice Candy's 500 Manx Norton, his first defeat in the 8 races he was in between Barber and Daytona, and impressive record.