Thursday, August 28, 2014

Classic TT 2014

I'm on my way back from the Isle of Man ClassicTT.  Team Obsolete shipped the 1959 Matchless G-50 1709 that we used to win the 1984 Senior Historic TT back to the IOM to participate in the Classic Racer Magazine Lap of Honour.  I went over a week before my ride to watch some practice and racing and hang out with friends.  There was a considerable American contingent, some newcomers, some with experience; some who I knew, some I didn't.  Ron Halem from San Jose, Ca., brought his 500 BSA Goldstar.  The bike had raced at the IOM at least four times before and this year was being rider by Paul Owen, an experienced and enthusiastic Brit.  Wade Boyd had raced at the IOM many times on both solo and sidecar and had a Classic F-1 Suzuki.  Bill Blythe is an old friend from Ct., who raced the Mountain Circuit for the first time last year after coming to the Island a couple of times previously to learn the circuit.  He was racing a Kawasaki ER-6 in the modern Supertwins/lightweight Manx Grand Prix.  Andrew Mauk, from Milwaukee, was riding his friend Keith's CB 450 Honda in the 500 Classic TT.
And, Jon Munds, from Portland, Or., was racing his 239cc CB 175 Honda in the 350 Classic TT.  Jon had Jared, Courtney and Tim helping him, all of whom I had met previously in Portland.  There was no separate 250 race this year, but there was a prize for the first 250.  
Andrew grenaded Keith's 450 pretty spectacularly early in the practice week when it broke a rod and punched a hole through the front and back of the motor. 

 Luckily, the motor didn't lock up and their oil pan seemed to collect all the oil and most of the debris, though Jon got hit by some shrapnel while following.  Keith had wisely brought a spare motor.  
Jon Munns had clutch slip problems in practice and had to replace the plates.
The Team Obsolete G-50 arrived in it's crate Friday and we attracted quite a crowd uncrating it.
The first race of the fortnight was the 500 Classic TT on Sat.  We watched from Gorse Lea, a very fast bend just before Ballacraine, with Paul Barrett, the fellow who first arranged a ride for me at the TT and taught me the way around in 1982, and who now lives on the Isle of Man.  John McGuinness led early, but his front master cylinder failed.  Ryan Farquhar led until his Paton broke.  Michael Rutter led for awhile until his G-50 stopped.  Ian Lougher eventually won on a Paton, despite incurring a 30 sec. penalty for speeding in the pit lane.  Ian had finished 2nd to me in the '84 Senior Historic TT which was only his second race on the TT course.  He went on to win ten TTs.  I ran into him in the paddock earlier in the week and, having never chatted with him before, we traded Ray Cowels stories, a legendary Welsh tuner and Ian's sponsor in that Historic TT.  2nd to Ian in the 500 Classic TT was Dan Cooper on a four valve Molnar Manx and third was Kiwi Bruce Ansty on Ken McIntosh's Manx.  Bruce won the the Hailwood trophy for the first single cylinder finisher as the Molnar four valve Manxes run by special dispensation in the multi cyl. class.  Maria Costello finished 5th on a Paton and was over the moon with that result.  There continues to be much debate about what is a legitimate Classic bike and what is an accurate replica and what is a modern bike mascarading as a Classic.  The replica MVs were the focus of much attention.  Andy Mauk broke a chain on the first lap and Paul Owens blew a head gasket on Ron Halem's Goldstar on the 3 rd lap.
Sunday was the Jurby Festival at an old WWII airfield in the north of the Island where a short circuit has been laid out.  There's club racing there during the season but, for the Jurby Festival, it's just lapping in different groups.  In the Lap of Honour group, there was a Sete Gibernau Desmodiceci Ducati, a RC 45 and RC 30 Hondas, YZR 500 Yamahas, a RR 250 Aermacchi in a biota chassis, an MV 3, a Benelli four, a Paton, several TZ 250 and 350 Yamahas.  As last year on the AJS 3 valve 7R, I was on the oldest bike in the group.  I did a couple of laps and the clutch started slipping, so I return to the pits and we cranked in more free play in the cable.  I went back out, but it was still slipping, so I came in and we, Rob Iannucci, Seth Rosko and I, took the clutch apart, cleaned the plates with solvent and roughed them up with sand paper.  This cured the clutch slip for the second session but, when I started the 2nd lap, I had a big slide and almost crashed in turn #1.  A rider came by pointing frantically at my bike and I looked down to see the union on the fuel line at the float bowl had come off and was dumping fuel on the rear tire.  I pulled off the track immediately and shut off the fuel.  I started pushing the bike back to the pits through the grass thinking the session would end before I got back, but then there was a red flag.  My first thought was that someone had crashed on my gas, but it turn out to be totally unrelated, with the Paton crashing on the other side of the circuit.  This gave me time to get the bike back to the pits and tighten up the fuel line union and I was able to go out when they re-started the session and confirm that the clutch was good now.  This was all very useful, as it's much better to find this stuff out on an open short circuit than on the TT course.
Sunday evening was the TT Heroes Dinner with former World Superbike Champion and IOM resident Neil Hodgson the M.C.  Neil acknowledged all the TT winners present individually.  We sat at a table with three Scotish TT winners: Bill Simpson and his son Ian (one of five father/son duos to win TTs) and Brian Morrison.  Hodgson conducted a 'chat show' with John McGuinness, Graeme Crosby, Carl Forgarty, an Rob McElnea, all riders who had raced at the TT with and against Joey Dunlop, the most successful TT racer ever.  They all seemed to agree that Joey didn't let many into his inner circle and that he was a bit of an enigma, but had great respect and affection for him.
Mon. was to be the the 350 Classic TT, the Lap of Honour, and the the Formula 1 and Formula 2 Classic TT races, but they were postponed until Tues. because of bad weather and lack of visibility on the mountain. At first it was announced that the Lap of Honour would be scrapped entirely due to a limited amount of time there was to close the roads, but then it was decided to shorten the two races to 3 laps (from 4) and run the Parade.  So, after some lunch in Peel with the Portland crew, we spent the day at museums.  First was the Mannin Museum which tells the history of the Island from it's first know human habitation 2000 years ago to the present.  Next was the tiny Peel Transport Museum which features, among other things, the Peel P-50 and Trident microcars, powered by a 50cc motor and built in the '60s. Finally, we went to Murray's Motorcyle Museum.  It's packed with road bikes and racers and tons of photos and other memorabilia.  It had examples of four bikes that I own: a 250 and 350 Aermacchi, a Moto Guzzi Airone, and a Moto Guzzi Dondolino, which had road trim of full lighting and silencer and 19" rims (mine has 21" front and rear).
The decision to postpone the races and parade turned out to be the right one as Tues. was sunny and warm, if a bit windy.  The 350 Classic was won by Lee Johnston from N. Ireland on a replica MV three cyl. by quite a margin.  Second was Alan Oversby on a Honda with Roy Richards third on a Dick Linton 350 Aermacchi.  Jon Munns wasn't sure he could go three laps on one tank of fuel and, having broken a spoke in practice, wanted to check the spokes in the race, so he pitted after the first lap.  The stop took long enough that the leaders overtook him and he wasn't allowed to start his third lap, but was still considered a finisher.  Maria Costello finished 26th overall and 2nd 250 on a T-20 Suzuki.
I was scheduled to started the Parade #7 behind John McGuinness, Chas Mortimer, Brian Reid, and Mick Grant.  #5, Steve Plater, was on a 500 Honda four bobber with Firestone tires and I passed him on the way down Bray Hill.  I had assured Rob Iannucci that I wasn't worried about the 14 year old tires on the bike, but maybe we should have put new tires on as I had a little slide at Quarter Bridge. So, I took it dead steady through Bradden Bridge and Graeme Crosby  came by me on the straight towards Union Mills.  Graeme was on a 1300cc?Suzuki XR69, so had plenty of power, but was going very conservatively through the bends.  I tucked in right behind him and got a tow up to Glen Vine and then, appropriately, through Crosby.  He shut off early at the Highlander and I went by him into Greeba Castle.  He came back by be on the straight between Gorse Lea and Ballacraine.  Around Doran's Bend, Con Law came by the both of us on a RS 500 3 cyl. Honda.  Not long after that, Brian Morrison came by on a Kawasaki ZXR 750 and I followed the three of them through Glen Helen.  Morrison and Law gradually pulled away and I followed Croz all the way onto the Sulby Straight.  Again, he braked really early for Sulby Bridge and I went by him.  Somewhere in there Steve Linsdell came by on his 500 Royal Enfield, which his son Olie was entered on in the 500 Classic race.  Also somewhere in there, Gary Carswell came by on a Kawasaki ZXR 750.  When I crashed the Team Obsolete Benelli 350 four in the '93 Junior Classic MGP, I ended up in Nobles Hospital with Gary as my roommate.  Gary had crashed his bike testing at Jurby and we listened to the race he should have been a top runner in on the radio together in the Hospital.  Gary went on to win a MGP and race in many TTs and is now a traveling marshall. Croz came back by me after Glentramman.  Again, a little slide in Parliment Square.  I wondered if the clutch would hold up slipping it out of Ramsey Hairpin, but it worked fine.  The G-50 had race gearing on it, which was perhaps a little tall for a parade as I only used 6th gear a little bit, but it pulled fine in 5th up the Mountain Mile.  Coming down the mountain, Croz really checked up for the 33rd and I passed him again as we approached Keppel Gate.  He stuffed it underneath me at Creg-na-ba.  This was the first time I had done Brandish since they opened it up and I checked up way early.  On through Hillberry, Cronk-ny-Mona, Signpost, steady through Governor's Bridge, and finishing up on Glencrutchery Rd.  The bike ran perfectly and the conditions were near perfect; heaven.
I didn't get to watch the following F-1 and F-2 Classic as we had to drain the oil and gas and crate the bike and all the tools and spares and my riding gear up.  But, Bruce Ansty dominated on a '92? YZR 500 Yamaha GP bike.  Many thought it couldn't last or would be unrideable, but he broke the lap record on his way to the win.  Ian Lougher won the F-2 class on a TZ 250 Yamaha for his second Classic TT win.
Dinner with David Cretney, Minister of Tourism and Leisure and former MGP competitor, Mike Nicks, founding editor of Classic Bike and Classic Racer magazines, and Mike Braid, owner of a fabulous collection of solos and side cars and long time friend and aide to Team Obsolete, capped off a great Classic TT.
 A Greeves 32 Sport seen on the Douglas Prom.

A 350 Aermacchi that Joey Dunlop race in a Junior Classic MGP, displayed with many of his other bikes raced at the IOM.

The KR 750 Kawasaki that Mick Grant raced.

The Renault Trafic six speed diesel van we had use of on the Island.  Why can't we get these in the USA?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

All the gear, all the time

5 weeks ago, I was riding my Honda CBR 250R home from Brooklyn when, about 1/3mi. from my house, a car pull out from the curb directly into a U-turn in front of me.  I tried turning left, hoping they'd see me and stop and I could sneak around the front of them.  No such luck and I T-boned the car behind the left front wheel/driver's door area.  I'm a little fuzzy about my trajectory, but I ended up on the road with my neck and left thigh hurting.  An ambulance was there shortly and, after my helmet was removed and my one piece Aerostich Roadcrafter was cut off me, a neck collar was put on and I was put on a back board and taken to the emergency room of the local hospital.  A CAT scan showed a 'non-displaced fracture' of C-4 vertebrae.  I take this to mean a crack, as I had no neurological symptoms whatsoever.  The contusion and hematoma on my thigh was the main problem and, while that's much better, my knee continues to bother me.  It always could be worse and I'm glad I was wearing all the gear that I was, including boots, gloves and back protector.  I spent a day in the hospital and was fitted with a more comfortable neck brace/collar which, hopefully, I'll get rid of next Tues. when I see the neurosurgeon again.  He convinced me that it wouldn't be prudent to ride again for 6 weeks.
So, I went to the AHRMA race at New Jersey M/S Park on 12-13 July, but didn't race.  What I did do is covered in this posting on Larry Lawernce's website, The Rider Files.  Larry is a long time Motojournalist and writes the 'Archives' column in Cycle News along with much of their race coverage.  Larry had done a few pieces on abandoned race tracks, so I sent him my report on Vineland, which he posted recently:
Check out Larry's other abandon track articles: