Friday, November 20, 2015

2015 Race Record

In 2015, I raced at 13 events at 13 different venues, all of which I had raced at before.  I entered 47 races and started 44.  I had 22 wins, seven 2nds, three 3rds, four 4ths, four 5ths, and one DQ (forgot to mount the transponder).  I had five DNFs, three of which were crashes.  Three crashes is about my average for a year.  One was on oil, and one might have been as a result of a mechanical failure, but maybe I was pushing too hard.  I raced 13 different bikes owned by 10 different people.  A reasonably successful season and I won the AHRMA 350GP championship again, though it seems like I had more than my share of mechanical issues.  This completes 44 years of racing, without missing a year.
In addition, I did the Lap of Honour at the Isle of Man, three Tiddler Tours, and a Moto Giro.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

AHRMA Daytona 2015

From Barber, I drove the back roads to Phenix City, Al., and spent the night.  The next morning, I drove to Pasaquan, near Buena Vista, Ga.  Pasaquan was the home of of Eddie Martin, a mystic visionary folk artist with a psychedelic bent.  I had stopped there last year on my way from Barber and was blown away.  The site is being restored by the Kohler Foundation and is not officially open yet, but the workers seem totally comfortable with visitors wandering around.  Much progress had been made in the year and they hope to officially open the site by May 2016.  If you're in west central Georgia, I highly recommend a visit.
Pasaquan 10/14
Pasaquan 10/15
From Pasaquan, I drove through rural, central Georgia to Savannah where I spent a few days with good friends in an enchanting city, filled with history and architecture.
Thurs., I drove down to Daytona and got set up in 'Sprint Central' with the Hollingsworths and John Basore and Jim Dillard.  I changed the gearing from Barber and checked everything over.
You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a H-D Sprint, the  Hollingsworth's 350GP, 250GP and 200GP bikes in the foreground, with my ERTT behind, and Jim Dillard's 250GP and 200GP CRTTs in the backround  with Frank Dittomaso's Historic Production LW 350 Sprint.
AHRMA shares the track with the modern bike organization, ASRA, and races on Fri. and Sat.  Again, I was racing the Dennis Latimer tuned CT-1 Yamaha and my ERTT. 
The two Latimer CT-1 Yamahas.   Jason Roberts was going to race X65, but the gearbox failed in practice.
 Practice went well with both bikes, though I ended up gearing my H-D taller than I had the past several years.  In fact, checking my race records, I had only once turned a faster lap in all the years we had been using transponders than I did Fri. morning, despite missing more shifts and even having it pop out of gear.
But, the problem was that the 350GP and 200GP were scheduled in the same race.  I talked to Cindy Cowell, the race director, to see if she could change that, but she didn't see a way to.  Because of the limited track time that AHRMA has sharing the track with ASRA and the pathetically small entry, many classes have to be combined in each race.  So, I raced the Latimer CT-1 and was scored in both classes, as 350GP is a legal 'bump-up' for the CT-1.
I led about 85% of the 200GP race, but never led across the start/finish line.  Each lap, Denny Poneleit on his amazing 200 Honda would motor by me on Nascar #4 onto the front straight.  I would pass him in turn#1 or #2 and lead through the infield and onto the banking.  It seemed that I had acceleration on him, but he had top end on me.  So I was 2nd 200GP less than a second behind, even though I had a slightly faster fastest lap than Denny, but also 2nd 350GP, as only Jack Parker was ahead of us.  BTW, Denny won the 1971 AMA Junior race at Daytona and has raced there since the mid '60s.  He knows how to build a bike for Daytona.
Rick Remy, Dennis Latimer's nephew, gets ready to put the stand on the CT-1.  Don Hollingsworth photo
For Sat., I decided to race my Sprint in the 350GP race and race the CT-1 in the 250GP race.  In practice, I was missing shifts more regularly and it jumped out of gear several time, with the revs going to the moon.  And, twice on the front straight, the motor started misfiring and cutting out, but then would run fine on the infield.  When I looked at the spark plug after the first round of practice, I found the gap was about 0.002"and I could see a mark on the piston from where it had touched.  I wondered if my big end bearing was going south, but turning the motor with the outside flywheel, it felt alright, as much as I could tell without taking down the top end.  So, I put two washers on a new spark plug, installed it, and went out for the second round of practice.  Again, the motor ran fine through the infield but would misfire and cut out on the banking after a while at full throttle.  Now, I thought the big end must be going and I decided to pull in.  But, exiting the chicane, the motor cut out completely and I had to push the bike in.  I removed the spark plug, expecting to see the gap closed again, but it hadn't changed a bit.  I started looking for another problem and when I barely touched the ground lead from the battery, it fell off.  Oh, that was my problem.  So, I repaired the lead putting new, redundant eyelets on the cable, and was ready for the 350GP race.
Al Hollingsworth puts the stand on my ERTT while Rick works on the CT-1.  Don Hollingsworth photo
But, the 250GP race was first.  I ended up a distant 2nd to Jack Parker on his 250 DT-1 Yamaha in the 250GP, which was probably as good as I could expect, but my fastest lap on the 175 CT-1 Yamaha was 2.225 seconds slower than I had gone the day before as it seemed the motor was losing it's edge. 
Right from the start of the 350GP race, I realized that the ground lead was only one of my problems, as the motor was still cutting out on the front and back straights.  Again, it would run fine in the infield, but ran so badly on the banking that my fastest lap was slower than I had gone earlier in the 250GP on the CT-1.  Now I decided that it must be fuel starvation as it seemed to be a matter of how long I held the throttle open.  The entry was light enough that I still finished 2nd to Jack Parker again. That 2nd and the one for the day before, was enough to cinch the AHRMA 350GP championship for the umpteenth time.
After the race, I took the fuel taps out of the tank expecting to see their filters clogged, but they were clean.  I took the top off the float bowl and that filter was clean, too, and the float seemed to be working fine.  So, I'm at a loss to explain what the problem was.  Don Hollingsworth had a somewhat similar problem Fri., and after brother Al had completely gone through the carb, changed the coil in desperation and that seemed to cure it.  So, maybe I have a coil problem, but that doesn't sound right to me.  And maybe I had a plugged fuel tank vent, which I haven't gotten around to checking yet.  After all my increasing shifting problems, I half expected to see some gear dogs come out when I drained the oil, but the oil was quite clean.  I got in touch with Bill Himmelsbach and he agreed to look at the gearbox again and I stopped at his house on my way home and pulled the motor out and left it with him.
AHRMA announced their schedule for 2016, and Daytona isn't on it.  They've finally come to the realization that Daytona in the fall has become an anticlimax after the huge Barber event.  There's some talk that it may be back in the spring in 2017,  but I may have raced there for the last time.

Jack Parker's DT-1 Yamaha
Jack's front tire.  If it's dry, they work fine as they become more like a slick
Doc Batsleer's Garden Gate Manx
Paul Allender came from England to race his TZ750 Yamaha at Daytona
The TZ has a frame and fuel tank made in Canada by Dennis Curtis
The workmanship on the chassis is superb.
A line up of Yamaha twins that came from Texas

2015 Barber Vintage Festival

On my way to Barber M/S Park from Weaverville, N.C., I stopped at the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, N.C.  The museum has exclusively American motorcycles and the majority of them were Harleys.  But, there are quite a few other more obscure brands, lots of memorabilia, and the odd car.  Dale Walksler, the proprietor, is a dynamo and is very approachable.  Dale fired up a bike and rode it around the museum.  There's a very good competition section with lots of race bikes, posters, trophies, leathers, and photos.
From there, I drove straight to Barber and got set up Thurs. afternoon.
For the AHRMA Barber event only, there is practice Thursday and/or Friday, but none on race day because the entry is so big and there are so many races, there isn't time.  Practice went well on the ERTT, though I did miss the odd shift.

I also rode the the CT1 Yamaha that Dennis Latimer built for David Ecker, and that I rode last year at Barber.
  It was geared too tall initially and the clutch slipped when it was cold.  By the time that we got the gearing close, the clutch was slipping all the time.  This was fixed by changing the whole clutch pack.  Then Dennis jetted it down and we were ready.
On the Dennis Latimer tuned CT1 Yamaha.  Don Hollingsworth photo
It rained pretty heavily over night and the track was still wet for the first race, the 250GP.  The second race was the 350GP gridded behind the Formula 500, in the second wave.  I didn't get a very good start and I was a bit tentative, figuring out how wet the track was.
Here I lead #112 Kevin Thurston (F-500, CB 350 Honda), #950 Don Hollingsworth (350 H-D Sprint), and #76 Stu Carter (Seeley 7R), but Jack Parker is long gone.  Neville Miller photo
But, Jack Parker, who had just won the 250GP race and knew exactly how wet the track was,  nailed the start on his DT1 Yamaha.   I passed several bikes after I got going, but never caught him and ended up second in class, almost 11 seconds behind, and 6th overall.
The 200GP race was in the afternoon, by which time the track was totally dry.  I started on the 10th row, having no points in the class this season.  It took me a couple or three laps to get in the lead and I won the race, but was surprised after to see that Chris Spargo, on his LS2 Yamaha, had finished less than 0.3 of a second behind me and his fastest lap was only 0.112 seconds slower than mine.
Cory Levenson photo
Sunday dawned beautiful and for the 350GP I was ready.  I got a much better start, although Jack Parker (who had again won the previous 250GP race) and Paul Germain both beat me off the line. I got by Paul first and, after a lap or so, got by Jack.  He came back by, but I was able to pass him back and pull a small gap, finishing just over 3 seconds ahead of him and again 6th overall.
Here I'm ahead of Jack Parker #18 (DT-1 Yamaha), Bobby Birdsall #x2 (350 Aermacchi) and John Stevens (250 Aermacchi).  Neville Miller photo
 My fastest lap was more than 2 seconds faster than I had gone on Sat., while Jack had gone only less than half a second quicker.
Jack and I went back and forth.  Neville Miller photo
The 200GP was similar to Sat.  I had a little better starting position, based on the point I had earned Sat., and was quickly chasing Chris Spargo.
leading Chris Spargo through the back straight chicane.  Neville Miller photo
We swapped back a forth a couple of times and I was just able to hold him off to the checkers, winning by 0.171 seconds., with a fastest lap 0.351 seconds faster than Chris, and 1.329 seconds faster than I had gone Sat.
Chris Spargo on his LS-2 Yamaha chasing me on a CT-1 Yamaha.  Don Hollingsworth photo
I packed up having had two good races with good competition and both bikes seeming in good shape for Daytona the following week.

Joe Gardella, winner of the Century Race for bikes at least 100 years old.
Beno Rodi on an Indian in the Century Race
A belt drive Triumph for the Century race.
And, speaking of belts, I love the belt damper on the front suspension
As long as I'm on two wheels, I'm happy.  Cory Levenson photo

Friday, November 13, 2015

2015 Classis TT addendum

Mike Peavey spotted me on the Team Obsolete 1954 E-95 AJS Porcupine in a Velocity Channel broadcast of the Classic TT Lap of Honor and spent me a clip.  I believe this is approaching Ballacraine and following me in Jim Redman who, at 83 years old, is still going strong.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fall Moto Giro

The USCRA's Fall Moto Giro was held in Asheville, N.C. this year on the weekend before the Barber Vintage Festival.  Will Paley, who participated in many Giros while he lived in Ct., moved to the Asheville area a couple of years ago and organized and laid out the route this Giro.  When I arrived on Fri., people were getting set up and doing last minute prep on there bikes.  I was quite taken with Tom Cotter's Progress scooter.
This is a late '50's German machine powered by a 191cc Sachs two stroke.  German machines of this era have such beautiful aluminum castings.  Tom let me take it for short ride and I was quite impressed.
It started to rain and blow in the afternoon and we knew that this was the beginnings of Hurricane Joaquin.  The predictions were dire, but we went to bed hoping for the best, knowing that the media often hypes these things way out of proportion.
The headquarters motel was chosen because of it's proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was our exit out of town.  Unfortunately, we found Sat. morning that the BRP had been closed.  Apparently, trees were down, and there was no easy way to revise the route on short notice, so Saturday's route was abandoned and we just did a agility test in the parking lot.
The majority of the Giroist decided to go to the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, not far away.  But, a few of us wanted to ride.  Yeah, it was raining and blowing, but so what?
Rob Hall grew up in the area, though he now lives in Charlotte, and he volunteered to lead us on a ride.    Six of us took off, heading first to Rob's brother Jake's shop, Hall's Custom Vintage, so Rob could pick up some two stroke oil.  We got to see Jake, who was recovering from a badly broken leg he received when T-boned while road testing a customer's beautiful BSA Goldstar.  HCV is a great shop and between Jake, Rob, and their dad Stuart, they can tackle anything for restoration or performance.  After checking out a few of their current projects and a good smooze, we got on the road again.
Leaving Halls Custom Vintage during Hurricane Joaquin.  Stuart Hall photo
Rob was riding the 125 Sachs Boondocker that he and his brother had beat the shit out of when they were kids.  Rob dragged it out of the barn where it had sat idle for years a few days before and threw some new tires on it.  I was riding my '68 TC 200 Suzuki, Mike Baker and Steve Fowler we each on 250 H-D Sprints, Tom Cotter was on his Progress and his nephew Kevin was on a YDS-3 Yamaha.  After a couple of miles of residential streets, we got to Elk Mountain Rd., and the fun began.  The road climbs steeply with switchback after switchback.  I couldn't believe the pace Rob was setting.  I knew Rob was a great roadracer, having raced against him at Roebling Rd., Barber, and Talladega.  But, now he was on a 125 dirt bike with trials universal tires.  In the pouring rain, he was  sending it in to the wet leave covered roads.  Admittedly, he knew the road well, but still I was dumbfounded, and there was no way I could hang with him.  When we stopped for a break, I asked him about those trials universal tires.  The front was a Shinko and the rear was a Golden Boy!  China's best.
We worked our way to Banardville, and then headed back, dropping Rob off at HCV.  Yeah, it was wet and there were a few branches down, but I think people had over reacted again.  Back at the HQ motel, my old friend, Bob Curtis, met us for lunch.  I probably met Bob 35 years ago when he live in the East End of Long Island, near the Bridgehampton race circuit.  About 10 years ago, he moved down to Burnsville, a little north of Asheville.  A couple of years after that, he fell in an AHRMA cross country and broke his back and is paralyzed from the waist down.  He now lives in a rehab facility in Asheville and his wife brought him over to the motel to see the bikes and some old friends, including Bob Coy, President of the USCRA, who he hadn't seen for about 30 years.  This motorcycle sport is serious fun.
At dinner that night, it was announced that Will had come up with a plan to run Sunday's route despite the fact that the Blue Ridge Parkway was still going to be closed.  Five or so locals would lead groups of 12 or so Giroist on a complicated route some 12 miles out of town to where we'd pick up the original route, for which we already had route sheets.  And, while the day started drizzly, it got nicer and nicer and, by mid-day, the sun was out and the roads were dry.  And, what roads they were.
Early on, I got hooked up with Rich Hosley riding his Ossa Wildfire.  But then he missed a turn and I rode for myself through some fabulous roads.  Grapevine Rd., Revere Rd., Lonely Mountain Rd.  Switchback after switchback with superb views and almost no traffic.  After I had gone quite a ways and was beginning to wonder if I had missed a turn, I stop to take a piss.  Being the modest, retiring fellow I am, I walk a ways off the road after parking my bike right on the side of the road.  I heard a two stroke coming and I got back to my bike just in time to see Rich passing and riding off in the distance.  There are no friends in a Moto Giro; it's cut throat.  So now I jammed hard trying to catch Rich, but ended up being the first one at the lunch stop in Marshall.  Rich had gotten lost again.
After lunch and the agility tests, I left with Rick Bell on his Sprint.  After we went a ways, we got hung up by some Giroist who were taking the average speed a bit too literally for my taste and I made a bit of a rude pass and lost Rick.  Some ways later, I saw a rider up ahead, and it took me for ever to catch up to him.  I followed for a good while and couldn't find a was to safely pass at this pace.  Finally, when he looked down at his route sheet in his tank bag figuring out the next turn, I swooped by, having my route sheet holder up on the cross bar of the handlebars and not having to take my eyes off the road much to read it.  This fellow, on a CB160 Honda, latched right onto me and we rode hard all the way back to the finish.  Trent Webster from Knoxville, Tn., introduced himself and I told him that I was impressed by his riding after he told me the motor was stock and still 161cc.
Trent Webster's CB160 Honda
I was impressed that Trent's taillight actually worked
Swiss Neiderberger gets the long distance award.  He brought this 250 Motobi from British Columbia
Eli Kirtz' on his C110 Honda, the sole 50cc entry
After a rough start, it turned out to be a great Giro.
Ron Cowan's Sears Allstate/Puch SR250 Twingle
Rich Snyder's '67 LS-2 Yamaha

Eli's faithful mascot
The legendary Cotter brothers, Danny standing and Tommy on his Progress, after Tommy survived going over a cliff, hauling his scooter 40' up to the road with the help of half a dozen or more and carrying on to the finish.  What's the big deal?
retrieving Tommy's Progress

I stayed on a few days with Will and his wife Elaine, in Weaverville, and got to ride much of his fleet.  Mon., my brother Doug and his wife Amy came over.  Doug's Benelli had died the previous day, his first DNF, and he found the loose connector in about 5 minutes in Will's shop, and we went for a ride, me on Will's Moto Guzzi Falcone, Will on his R-50 BMW, Rick Bell on his Sprint.  I rode my TC200 down to Bob Curtis' rehab facility and had dinner with him and his wife, who had brought Chinese takeout.  Over the next couple of days, I got to ride Will's NX 250 Honda and 2011 Moto Guzzi V-7.   I thought Will, having three BMWs, should know Ivan Messina and  Motorrad Unlimited, and we took a ride over to West Asheville and checked out his shop while he was preparing a bunch of bikes for Barber.  We visited Jake Hall again at HCV when I needed to weld a broken cable adjuster I found on my ERTT when preparing it for Barber.  Will took a shine to a 1950 Douglas Mk IV 350 they had in the shop and he recently told me that he bought it.  And we rode down to the Wedge Brewing Co. on a fine evening and met up with some of Will and Elaine's friends.  All in all, a great prelude to the Barber Vintage extravaganza.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Larz Anderson European Bike Day

In late Sept., I went up to Brookline, Ma., at the Larz Anderson Transport Museum for their European Bike Day.  It wasn't a great turn-out as the weather was iffy, and I don't have any photos, but I thought the exhibit in the museum was outstanding.
To me the highlight of the exhibit was the three (not one, not two, but Three) V-8 powered motorcycles.  There was one of the replica Moto Guzzi V-8 race bike.  I think these were built by the Moto Guzzi factory, in which case maybe they shouldn't be considered replicas.  While my preference is for singles, this bike is a technological tour de force.  Bill Burke had been to the show not long before and didn't remember seeing the Guzzi and it's not listed on the website, so maybe it was/is only there temporarily.  Next to this was the Morbidelli V-8, with the longitudinal motor, and the Australian Drysdale V-8, with a transverse motor like the Guzzi.
There's lots of very early bikes, both American and European, including a Flying Merkel, Emblem, Pierce, BSA, and Douglas.  There's a Crocker, a nice display of TZ Yamaha race bikes, an oval piston NR750 Honda, a Hercules rotary, and a Rokon Trailbreaker.  And, there's a nice photo display of legendary women motorcyclist including the striking Anke-Eve Goldmann.
The show is on until May, 2016, so if you're in the Boston area, it's definitely worth a visit.  The building and grounds are worth a visit in themselves.

Monday, November 2, 2015

USCRA NJMP Lightning

Rob Iannucci decided that Team Obsolete should race a couple of bikes at the United States Classic Racing Assoc.'s mid Sept. race at New Jersey Motorsports Park's Lightning circuit, run in conjuncture with the vintage car racing group, the SRA.  It was decided that we would take the ex-Don Vesco BSA A50R and a AJS 7R in a lightweight frame.  The BSA had never been raced by T/O, only paraded by Don Emde at Mid-Ohio years ago.  I had raced the 7R many times, but not since 2002 when it had a G-50 motor in it; the 7R motor had last run in 2001.
The AJS 7R on the left and BSA A50R on the right with my new van on it's inaugural race in the backround.
We got a little practice Fri. afternoon.  I went out on the 7R first, but there was a red flag on the first lap when someone fell on cold tires.  I went back out on the 7R when the track was green, not realizing that they had moved on to the second practice group.  So I didn't get out on the BSA.  The 7R was like an old friend and I had guessed right on the gearing.  This bike has a frame designed by Dick Mann, Ceriani 35mm road race forks, 210mm Fontana front brake and a 6 speed gearbox, and 1 1/2' GP carb, up from the original 1 3/8'.
The Team Obsolete AJS 7R LW#1/4830A
Sat. morning practice revealed that the belly pan that we had made for the BSA didn't give nearly enough ground clearance and the gearing was well short.  With the new tires scrubbed, I was really getting into it with the 7R.  I raised the belly pan on the BSA as much as I could and discovered that the rear sprocket that I had brought, while they looked the same as what was on the 'knock off' spool hub, didn't actually fit.
T/O's ex- Don Vesco BSA A50R
500GP was in the combined first race and I quickly discovered that I still had a ground clearance problem with the belly pan and, as I tried to ride faster, the short gearing became more of a problem, as I had to roll back the throttle very early on the front straight.  So I circulated slowly to avoid hurting the bike.
The 350GP was the last race of the day.  As I went to start the bike, after pulling it back on compression, when I pulled in the clutch, the barrel came off the end of the clutch cable.  I figured that I was done as we were already on third call and, even if I had a spare cable, there was no time to install it.  
But, Erik Green came up with an idea: bump start the bike in the hot pit lane and ride without a clutch.  I was game, so they pushed me and I kicked it in gear and rode down to pit out while the bikes were forming up on the grid, having completed their warm-up lap.  I tried to ride as slow as possible so that I wouldn't have to stop before they threw the green flag and I could just motor out the pit lane onto the track.  But, no; they were taking too long to form up and I had to kill the motor.  When they finally dropped the flag and everyone took off, I pushed the 7R as hard as I could in neutral, jumped on it, and kicked it in gear.  It was slightly uphill and the motor just barely fired but I was able to enter the track after everyone was long gone.  I got to chase down a bunch of bikes despite having some problems downshifting and often exiting corners a gear high, and ended up 3rd 350 behind Rich Midgely on Frank Giannini's CB77 Honda with a GS 400 Suzuki head on it, and Jim Jower's Seeley 7R.
Jim Jowers' Seeley short stroke 7R
Midge let us use his solder pot to repair the clutch cable that evening and we were able to enjoy a great pot luck dinner in the pits after.
I decided not to race the BSA Sunday, as it was pointless with the gearing we had.  So, I raced the 7R in 500GP race, again in race one.  I won the 500GP class and got well up among the Lightweight Supervintage and EuroCup bikes.
I lined up for the 350GP in race #5 pretty confident.  But, on the first lap I had a big slide, which I initially attributed to cold tires, but then my foot started slipping on the shift lever.  Towards the end of the second lap, I took a good look and saw that my boot was covered with oil.  The 'D' shaped cover that gives access to the magneto vernier on the timing cover had fallen off and I pulled off immediately. We found that the threads in the magnesium cover had failed and the 2BA bolts pulled out.  But, Jim Jowers had seen something fall off my bike and described approximately where so, after the racing was over, we were able to go out on the track and look for it.  After a fair amount of looking and starting to think that we were beyond where Jim had described, I spotted it, on the track with the gold painted side up.
Jim Jowers' 250 Ducati
Randy Hoffman's KTT Velocette in a featherbed frame
Randy's Vincent Gray Flash
Louie Saif and Ralph Stechow arranged for the 7th annual Ducati TT & F1 symposium to be at NJMP
Ralph's TZ750
The ex-Jimmy Adamo/Reno Leone Cagiva GP bike
An odd couple of spectators 
A Sunbeam S-8 from the late '40s or early '50s
The well used H-D.  Note the 2X4 shimming the battery.
Looks quite original to my untrained eye.
Historic indeed!
Me with my new van, a Ram Promaster 1500 short wheelbase, low roof, the first new four wheeler I've owned.