Friday, October 30, 2015

Bonneville Vintage GP

The day after I got back from the Classic TT at the Isle of Man, I rode my CBR250R 250 miles up to Danvers, Ma. and back to to check out a new van.  The next day, I flew to Salt Lake City for the Bonneville Vintage GP at Miller Motorsports Park.  As in the last several years, I was racing Mike Bungay's 350 H-D Sprint and Gary Roper's '51 Velocette MAC.  I had entered Class 'C' footshift on Velo and both 350GP and 500 Premiere on the Sprint.  But, as the 500 Premiere race was scheduled before the 350GP, Mike asked me not to race the former in order to not jeopardize a result in the latter.  So, I switched my Premiere entry to Classic 60's with the Velo.
Gary had made a few changes to the Velo, most notably rebuilding the magneto, which had failed at Sears Point, and moving the oil tank to make room for a longer intake tract, which Karl Engellener's dyno had shown made more power.  
The latest iteration of Gary Roper's Velo MAC with relocated oil tank
The relocated oil tank allowed a longer intake tract.
Though it now has a 650 Triumph 70mm piston in it, it's still a 370cc motor in a 500 OHV/750 flathead class.  The bike worked great right from the first practice.
Mike had Jim Belland check the frame (that Jim had made) after I crashed the bike in oil at Willow Springs and then it wanted to shake it's head at Sears Point.  Sure enough, Jim found that the steering head was pushed back and to the side, but he was able to bring it back in spec and straight.  
In the first practice, it steered better than at Sears, but the tach didn't work at all.  Mike thought he found the problem with the tach, but in the second practice it still didn't work and when I came in, I noticed that the front brake was dragging.  Inspection revealed that the lining was worn enough the the brake cams were starting to go over center.  Mike got some aluminum sheet and cut strips of and appropriate length and width to to wrap around the brake cams and shim them up.
Karl working on the front brake of the H-D Sprint
My first race was the Class 'C' which was gridded in the second wave behind 200GP.  I quickly got in the lead of Class 'C' and set about seeing how many of the 200GP bikes that I could catch.  I got to about the middle of the 25 200GP entrants, but when I came in, it was immediately pointed out to me that I had forgotten to move my transponder from the Sprint to the MAC in the confusion over the brake.  Therefore, I wasn't scored in the race.  Oh well, it's not like I was in contention for the championship.  
I was out again on the MAC for the Classic '60s race, again starting from the second wave.  The other four starters in the race. all on 500s, pulled away.  However, I closed up on Swiss Neiderberger on his 500 BSA Goldstar and was able to get by.  He motored back by and I again got him in a corner.  we repeated this pattern a couple more times until I stayed ahead of him for a couple of laps.  I figured that I must be clear of him, but on the back straight on the last lap, Swiss motored by again and I finished 5th and last in class.  It was  fun dicing with Swiss, but a bit of a quixotic exercise.
Immediately following the Classic '60s race was the 350GP.  In the earlier race#6, 500 Premiere had been in the first wave and 500 Sportsman in the second.  Eirik Nielsen and Steve Hipp, on their CB350 Hondas had come through from the second wave to finish first and second overall.  Now, in race #10, I would be on the pole in the first wave in 350GP and Eirik and Steve would be in the second wave in 350 Sportsman.  So the challenge was not only to win the class, but to win overall.  I pushed hard from the start and managed to lead flag to flag, though the tach still didn't work and the bike was starting to chatter some, and I noticed a change in the exhaust note during the race which turned out to be caused by a broken exhaust pipe.
On Sunday, we went back to the original plan with me riding the Velo only in Class 'C' and running the Sprint in both 500 Premiere and 350GP.  In practice, Walt Fulton, who was riding Karl Engellener's  sister bike to Mike's Sprint, and I decide to switch bike in practice.  Karl prepares both motors and they are a close as possible to identical.  The bikes have the same frames, bodywork, rear wheels and tires, but have different forks, front brakes and tachs.  Walt and I agreed that Karl's bike had the better front brake, didn't have the chatter, and vibrated less than Mike's.  Looking over Mike's bike after practice, we discovered that one of the engine mounting tabs on the frame was broken and another engine mounting bolt was loose.  This certainly accounted for the vibration and maybe the chatter.  Or, was that simply more worn tires.  We decided that we didn't have the time to repair the frame as it would have meant removing the engine.  We just made sure everything was tight.
This time I made sure the transponder was on the Velo for the Class 'C' race and I was able to pull away from all the bikes in the class and pass 12 of the 200GP bikes from the first wave and finish 9th overall.
Next up was the 500 Premiere/GP with 500 Sportsman and F-500 & F-250 in the second wave.  Based on the previous lap times, if figured that I had a pretty good shot at winning the 500 Premiere, but the question was: could Eirik catch me from the second wave.  I got into the overall lead on the first lap, kept pushing, and wasn't passed before the checker flag.  The tach worked long enough for me to get my shift points down a little better.  Eirik finished 2nd overall, just over 24 seconds behind which had to be largely the delay to the 2nd wave and having to plow through more traffic, as his fastest lap was 0.011 seconds faster than mine.
Eirik Nielsen's CB 350 Honda
While the chatter was getting a bit worse, the bike seemed fully capable of winning the 350GP and we didn't change anything.  The 350GP was gridded in front of Vintage Superbike Lightweight in the first wave with 350 Sportsman, 250GP and F125 in the second wave.  Again, I led flag to flag and again Eirik was 2nd overall, but this time just over 13 seconds behind.  My fastest lap was just over 3/4 sec. slower than in the 500 Premiere race, but Eirik's fastest lap was 1.785 seconds faster.  Walt Fulton was again 2nd in 350GP.

There were a couple of vintage transporter at Miller like this International Harvester Metro
The Metro clearly has some history.  If only it could talk....
The Metro had vintage A/C
This Studebaker pickup also sported a Thermador A/C
Dave Pierce rode his 300HP supercharged Kawasaki H2R in practice.  Carefully.

The H2R's header pipes.  Titanium?
And speaking of exh. pipes, the Highwayman Motor & Pipe fabricated pipe on Dustin Johnson CT1 Yamaha
A Centurion folding scooter
And, at the other extreme of pit bikes, Paul Germain's LS1 Yamaha.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

2015 Classic TT

A day home from Mosport, then off to the IOM. The flight was early arriving in Dublin, but late leaving Dublin, due to a hanger fire that stopped all incoming traffic for a while.  My dear friend Sue met me at the airport and drove us to Douglas where I got a SIM card for my phone and we had some lunch.  The she drove us to the the rental car agent where I picked up the Ford Transit van that we would be using for the week, and I followed her to her home in St. John's.
Our Ford Transit short wheelbase, high roof, 6 speed manual diesel
We loaded some bicycles on the back of her car and first drove a little ways and took a hike up South Barrule in a strong wind coming off the Irish Sea.  Then, we drove through Peel to Kirkmichael where we parked and unloaded the bikes and rode up the former rail line to spectate the evening practice at Rhencullen, a spectacular series of bends just out of Kirkmichael.  We sat on the bank and watched Michael Dunlop come through first and stand his X-R 69 Suzuki right up on the jump.  After 15 or 20 minutes, there was a red flag due to a crash at the 13th milestone and about 7 or 8 bikes pulled up right in front of us.  One of the riders was Ian Lougher.  Ian finished 2nd to me in the '84 Senior Historic TT, in only his 2nd race on the Mountain circuit, having finished 3rd in the previous year's newcomers race, then gone on to race in an incredible 141 more races at the TT, including 12 wins.  Ian chatted with the other riders there at Rhencullen and a few of the spectatators sitting on the bank.  After a while, he recognized me and we chatted a bit.  Then, the fellow next to me on the bank, turned and asked me if I still had my 250 Moto Guzzi.  Surprised and wondering how this fellow would know I had this bike, I replied 'Yes' and then realized it was Paul Smart, who I had met on a Moto Giro in California in 2008.  What are the chances that the three of us would be together at this spot in all of the 37 3/4 miles of the Mountain Circuit on a Wed. evening practice?  But, the Isle of Man is like that.
After spending the night at Sue and her husband, Peter's, house , I drove the van the next morning to the Airport to pick up Mike Gonteskey, a long time friend, former vintage road race competitor and current Moto Giro competitor.  Mike had volunteered to be the Official Team Obsolete whipping boy and gofer.  We checked into the Regency Hotel on the northeast end of The Queens Prom in Douglas. We then went up to the Paddock and unloaded the crate with the Team Obsolete 1954 AJS E-95 Porcupine.

photographer unknown
This was only the second time that an E-95 Porc had appeared at the Isle of Man since the Works last raced them.  In 1964, Mike Duff rode Tom Arter's E-95 one lap of practice, but it developed mechanical problems and it wasn't raced.  We shared a tent right behind the grandstand with Ken Mcintosh, who had brought the very first Featherbed Norton Manx, a bike that Geoff Duke debuted in New Zealand in 1950.  This bike was featured in a number of tributes to Geoff Duke, who died last May.
Ken McIntosh on the left with the first ever Featherbed Manx
The Porc uncrated, Mike and I went for a tour of the paddock.  The National Motorcycle Museum had a huge display of Nortons spanning everything from the Rem Folwer bike that won the inaugural  TT twin cyl. class (but let's not forget that Charlie Collier won the single cyl. class and overall on a Matchless), through Manxes, JPN Commando based racers and the Cosworth engined Challenge, through a whole gaggle of rotary racers.  There was a big display of Kawasakis and there I saw Hurley Wilvert.  I chatted with Ollie Linsdel, who's remarkable Royal Enfield racer had been the fastest single in the previous evening's practice.  Chris McGahan had some remembrances of the Porc from when he lived just down the block from where Mike Duff stayed in London when he was riding Tom Arter's Porc.  I caught up with Bill Swallow, who was racing along side of his son, Chris.  And we visited Dave and Lorraine Crussel and Scott Clough, who was looking after Dave's TZ750. The Mike and I went for a lap in the van.  We stopped at Tony East's A.R.E. Museum in Kirkmichael.  I paid particular attention to Tony's Greeves Sport Twins, a model with which I've recently become enamored.

A Greeves Eastcoaster at Tony East's A.R.E. Museum in Kirk Michael
 As we were leaving, we bumped into Mick Grant, who had ridden the T/O Porcupine at Cadwell Park in 2001, and asked me if it still vibrated so much and I allowed that on the dyno at 8000rpm it was buzzing pretty hard.
We drove on around the course to the Bungalow and got out and made a pilgrimage to the Joey Dunlop memorial there.  Then we almost finished  the lap, but turned left at Governors Bridge and drove through Onchan and the back roads to Hillberry to watch evening practice.  Hillberry is one of my favorite places on the course, a very fast right hand bend at the bottom of a long straight decent from Brandish, where the bikes sweep out towards the wall as they climb toward Cronk ny Mona.  Marshaling there was Les Trotter, a Senior Manx Grand Prix winner and someone I'd gotten to know racing in the Classic Manx GPs in the 80's.  It was great catching up with him and especially fortuitous as my pit neighbor the previous weekend at Mosport, Ron Kalaquin, had asked me to say hello to Les if I ran into him. After practice, Mike and I had dinner at a very good Thai restaurant oddly named New Manila.
A Norton featherbed with a Velocette motor we saw at Hillberry
The steering damper knob on the 'Velton'
Fri. morning, I went to the airport to pick up Rob Iannucci, major domo of Team Obsolete and the man who had tracked down and bought the Porcupine.  There, I ran into Bill Haas from Rhode Island, who regularly marshals at the Manx GP.  He was there to pick up Gordon Razee, a motorcycle dealer from R.I.,  and entourage.  Rob arrived, but his luggage didn't.  Also on the plane was an Aussie, who recognized me from racing in OZ, and we gave him a lift to Douglas.  After we got Rob checked into the hotel, we went up to the paddock and I went and fetched some Super Unleaded petrol, which we mixed with Avgas.  With this, we fired up the Porc in front of a very appreciative audience.  We saw Dean de St.Croix, a very fast classic racer from Canada, who had just come from a classic race in Most, Czech Republic and who was laying the ground work for a return to racing at the IOM where he raced in 2000 Classic Lightweight MGP on Henry Hogben's 250 Ducati.
I ran into John Cronshaw, who had come over on his original Goldstar road bike and was there helping his good friend Sandro Baumam, from Switzerland.  Then I saw Jim Redman, who Rob had re-united with the Team Obsolete RC 163 Honda six which Jim had raced when it first appeared at Monza in Sept. of 1964 then paraded many times in the late '90s.  At age 83, he's still looking good and  participating in many events in Europe.
Mike and I took off to watch evening practice.  We drove to a spot that I remembered spectating at many years before between Ballaspur and Doran's Bend.  This involved walking through a culvert under the course to get to the field on the other side.  But, the marshall there told us the farmer who owned the field no longer allowed spectating there, so we drove on to Cronk-y-Voddy crossroads.  We watched there for a while, but the wind finally forced us out before practice was over.
Sat., I drove Rob to an appointment in Peel and had some time to kill, so I drove along the coast road almost to Kirkmichael where I saw an intriguing path that went to the beach.  I found a place to park the van, then walked back to this path.  An oncoming motorcyclist passed and waved and I waved back, thinking just a friendly biker.  After a moment, he turned around and came back, stopped, and said 'Dave, are you stuck?'  I told him that I was just taking a walk and thanked him for checking, but I was amazed that someone who I did not recognize, would recognize me while riding by and turn around and check if everything was OK.  But, the Isle of Man is like that.
The ford at Glen Mooar
 I walked down the path, crossing a ford, to the beach which was deserted except for a Dad doing some 'civil engineering' with his two young sons in the sand.  I walked up the beach until the sea was crashing into the cliffs.
The beach at Glen Mooar
The Island has changed a lot since I first came there in 1974, with more houses and traffic, but there are still absolutely gorgeous spots to enjoy.
Then it was back to the paddock where Cathy and Frank Smith tracked us down.  They were with their Scottish friends who they had been staying with before coming over to the Isle.   We walked down to St. Ninian's crossroads to watch the Senior Classic race.  There we saw Pat Mooney and Gordon Razee.  The race was dominated by replica Italian exotica with Dean Harrison leading from start to finish on a MV-3 chased by Ian Lougher on a Paton.  Last year Lougher was penalized 30 seconds for speeding in the pit lane, but overcame this disadvantage and still won the race.  This year Lougher was again penalized 30 seconds for speeding in the pit lane.  He put in the fastest lap of the race, but ended up 26 seconds behind Harrison with the 30 sec. penalty.  There was some thought that Michael Dunlop might have a shot at the win on the Molnar 4 valve Manx since he could go the distance without a pit stop, whereas the multis would have to stop for fuel, but he ended up retiring with a mechanical issue.
After the race, we loaded up the van with the Porc, fuel, tools and spares, to head to Jurby in the morning.  That evening we went to Ballasala for dinner at our old friend Paul & Sue Barrett's house.  Paul was the one who arranged my first ride at the IOM and taught me the course and, years later, moved to the Isle.  With us was Dave Arnold, winner of the 1973 Lighttweight MGP, and Chris Bladon a former MGP competitor and renowned Aermacchi tuner, now involved with developing mini gas turbine motors.
Sunday morning, we drove up to the north of the Island for the Jurby Festival.  There's a WWII era airfield there which now has a short circuit race track on it and for the Festival, bikes of all different eras  and sizes lap the circuit.  There's no racing, just unrestricted parades.   There are two sessions for the Lap of Honour bikes and it's a good opportunity to shake down the bikes before doing the lap on the Mountain Circuit the next day.
turn #1 at Jurby, sorry, don't know who to give photo credit to.
 I was out there with a bunch of Norton rotaries, but for once I wasn't on the oldest or smallest bike.  Glen English was riding a 50cc Itom and someone was on a KTT Velocette.  We had very little time on the Porcupine, which makes one a little anxious, but the bike just seemed to get better the more we ran it.
exiting turn #1 at Jurby, again, don't know who took the photo
It was another beautiful day and there was a huge crowd.
That evening, we went to a memorial for Geoff Duke at St.. Ninian's Church.  Sammy Miller and Bill Smith gave remembrances of Duke and the event ended with what has to be a first in the history of the know universe:  a 500 Gilera 4 cyl., of the type Duke raced, was fired up in the Church and ridden out.  But, the Isle of Man is like that.
From the memorial, we went to the embarrassingly named 'Heros Dinner'.  The TT winners are distributed around to different tables to have dinner with the paying public.  We had 4 Aussies, an Italian, and an American couple, he competing in the MGP as a newcomer, at our table, all keen enthusiasts.  Charlie Williams, an 8 time TT winner, was M.C. and he introduced all the 'Heros' then got Bruce Anstey, John McGuinness, and Michael Dunlop up on the stage for an interview.
Monday's schedule was the Junior Classic race first, then the Lap of Honour, then the F1/F2 Classic race.  But, when we got up to the paddock, found there was a communications glitch and Race Control couldn't speak with the marshals.  The Junior Classic race was postponed, then postponed again, then again and again.  Most of the participants figured that the Lap of Honour was going to be scraped or put off to Tues., and the weather forecast for Tues. wasn't so good.  And some, like Mat Oxley, couldn't stay the extra day.  Finally, nearly 3 hours late, it was announced that the Jr. Classic was going to be shortened to 3 laps and Lap of Honour and F1/F2 race would follow.  I didn't get to pay much attention to the Jr. Classic race what with scrutineering and getting ready for the lap myself.  I started #14 and was passed by many faster bikes, but did pass a few myself.

lining up on Glencrutchery Rd. to start Lap of Honour, photographer unknown
the Launch
At Quarterbridge, Alan Lygo photo
rounding the Gooseneck on the Lap of Honour, photographer unknown
 Somewhere after Ballaugh, Alex George came by me on a Norton rotary and I was able to follow him for a good ways as he slowly pulled away.  I lost sight of him in Ramsey, but then saw him again at Brandywell and closed on him into Windy Corner.  He was clearly having a problem and I passed him before I got to the 32nd.  Afterwards I talked to him and he told me that he ran out of petrol and that he coasted all the way down to Hillberry where he knew someone would have some fuel. Sure enough, he was able to get some and restart the bike and finish the lap.  I finished the lap trouble free and was able to ride at a pace that kept it interesting, but I didn't scare myself once.

The flyscreen after the Lap, photographer unknown
 I talked to Les Trotter after the lap and he said that after he did the jump at Ballaugh Bridge, he got a shock every time he touched the clutch lever on the RG 500 Suzuki that he was riding.  Not wanting to abuse the gearbox of this valuable bike, he dutifully used the clutch for each shift, but the anticipation of using the clutch was a bad as the actual shock.  They found after that the fuel tank had moved down when he landed from the jump and a spark plug lead was grounding on the tank and electrifying the clutch lever.  I spoke to Steve Parrish the next morning at the hotel and I mentioned that I thought they were going to cancel the Lap.  He told me that he thought so too and that he got the word that it was going ahead while he was in the Beer Tent.  He was sure that the beer helped him on his lap on a Molnar Manx, the first time he had ridden a Manx at the Island.  Monday evening we had dinner with local friends at a restaurant on the quay in Peel.
Tuesday, Mike and I crated up the bike and tools and spares.  I had some time to kill in the afternoon, so I took a ride to Laxey.  By the time I got there, the Laxey Wheel, a huge water wheel that was used to pump water out of the lead mine, had closed, but I was able to wander around some of the other old mining structures and see the train come through town on the Electric Railway.  It's a charming trip back into the Victorian era.
The Laxey Wheel
a flathead Norton outfit I spied at the Laxey Wheel
the leaf spring on the Norton sidecar
We had a very amusing dinner with John Cronshaw and Sandro Baumann that evening.  Sandro's English isn't so good (though it's far better than my Italian), but John's Italian is very good, and they're both very funny.  Rob knows a bit of Italian and Mike speaks pretty good Spanish, which Sandro also speaks.  So the dinner was conducted in three languages and lots of hand gestures and was great fun.
Wednesday morning it was off to the airport to fly back to New York via Dublin and so ended another wonderful trip to that magic Isle.