Tuesday, December 19, 2017

World Championship GP racing

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Eli asked me if I had been to a European Grand Prix.  I immediately thought of a couple, but it got me to thinking about all to which I had been.
20 July, 1986 was the first, the French GP at Circuit Paul Ricard.  There was a classic support race there in conjunction with the GP which I was fortunate enough to win on the Team Obsolete Matchless G-50.  But, before the classic, I watched the 500 GP with John Surtees (who I had beat in the previous day's heat race).  He was helping/coaching/supporting Paul Lewis, an Australian racer know as the Angry Ant because of his aggressiveness and diminutive size.  My memory (and no one is more aware of the slipperiness and inaccuracy of memory than me, so feel free to correct me if you think I got it wrong) is that local hero Raymond Roche jumped into the lead but pretty quickly slapped it down, undoubtedly riding over his head in front of the home crowd.  Eddie Lawson won, I believe one week after breaking his collar bone at Laguna Seca.  Randy Mamola, on the Team Roberts Yamaha was 2nd, and another local hero, Christian Sarron, was 3rd.  Mike Baldwin, Mamola's teammate on the Roberts team was 4th.  Mike and I had raced together in the mid '70s in AAMRR and WERA before he went on to greater things.  He coached me a bit at Paul Ricard, where the classics raced on a slightly shorter version of the circuit than the GP.  The Angry Ant finished 10th.
27 June, 1987 Dutch TT at Assen.  Again, there was a classic race in conjunction with the GP, but here it was a curtain raiser run on the Thurs. before the GP.  I was entered on the Team Obsolete G-50 Matchless, but it broke in qualifying .  We installed an AJS 7R motor in the chassis and switched to the 350 class.  I got a terrible start from the absolute back of the grid, but won my class and turned the fastest lap of the combined classes.  I remember talking to Fred Merkel there.  We had spent a little time together at Dr. Dave Kieffer's Gem City Bone and Joint  orthopedic clinic.  This is the year after he won his third US Superbike Championship, but a year before the first World Superbike Championship, and I don't remember what he was doing at Assen.  He could have been riding in the European Championship race that ran on the Thurs. before the Classic, or he could have been scouting for a ride.  I probably shouldn't even include this in my list of World Championship GPs attended as we didn't stay to watch the race Sat.  Instead we flew to Rome and got a ride to Misano where Gianni Perrone and I paraded a couple of Team Obsolete's newly acquired MV racers at a classic meeting.
10 April, 1987 USGP at Laguna Seca.  This was the 1st USGP in 23 years and they were to continue there through 1994, except for 1992 when there was no USGP.  I'm a little fuzzy of which of these I attended but know I attended this one as I well remember Jimmy Felice winning what I believe was the first GP he rode in, the 250 GP.  His knowledge of the track trumped the European's experience.  The track had be lengthen to meet the FIM minimum by adding a left, right, right, left (turns 2-5) to what had been a relatively straight run from #2 to what is now #5.  Lawson on the Yamaha, beat Gardner and MacKenzie on Hondas in the 500 race.
8 April, 1990 USGP at Laguna Seca.  Eddie Lawson crashed in practice when the brake pads came out of his front caliper and was hurt badly enough to miss six GPs.  Kosinski and Rainey won the 250 and 500 GPs respectively again, maintaining the record of American winners in the GPs held at Laguna.  Doohan and Chili completed the 500 podium with Schwantz crashing out while dicing with Rainey.
21 April, 1991 USGP at Laguna Seca.  Rainey won again for the third time in a row but finally there was a foreign winner at Laguna with Luca Cadalora 1st in the 250 race ahead of Zeelenberg and Reggiani.  I remember that Chili had been demoted to the 250 class, but didn't finish on a Honda.
22 June, 1995 Dutch TT Assen.   Again, I was racing a Team Obsolete bike in the Classic support race to the GP, but this time, I did see the GP.  I was leading the 350 Classic on a MV-3 when a points wire broke and I limped in 3rd on two cylinders.  Mick Doohan was in the 2nd year of his 5 year domination of the 500 class and won this year at Assen with his team mate Criville 2nd and Puig 3rd for a Honda sweep of the podium.  Max Biaggi was also in the 2nd year of his 4 year domination of the 250 class and beat Taddy Okada with local hero Zeelenberg third.  two Germans were on the 125 podium with Dirk Raudies beating Peter Ottl, and Saito 3rd.  Suzuki put on a huge retirement party for Kevin Schwartz with an impressive fireworks display.
7 July, 1996 German GP at Nurburgring.  Steve McLaughlin was the promotor and got Team Obsolete to bring a bunch of bikes over to do parade laps.  I got to ride a 500 MV-3 behind Ago who rode a T/O MV 500-4.  Nurburgring was the site of Ago's last win on a MV 20 years before, but on the long course, not the short 2.822 mile circuit that we were running on.  We did a bus tour of the 14+ mile long course with Jim Redman commentating.  Jim said that he thought this circuit was more difficult to learn than the 37.73 mile IOM Mountain course because it all looked the same with the course cutting through forest where as the IOM had distinct sections and towns that help to keep track of where one was.  Luca Cadalora beat the then dominant Mick Doohan and Doohan claimed that he didn't see the last lap board.  Local hero Waldman won the 250 race
26 June, 1999 Dutch TT at Assen.  Again, I was racing a Team Obsolete bike in the Classic support race to the GP, this time in the T/O promoted Trans Atlantic Match Race.  We had two races and in the first on the 24th, I rode a 500 MV three cylinder that was misbehaving a bit to 3rd, 500 and 7th OA.  I crashed the MV in practice for our 2nd race and ended up riding a Dutch ABSAF BSA Goldstar and DNFed with a mechanical.  Taddy Okada won the 500 from Roberts, Jr. and Gibernau.  Rossi was 2nd to Capirossi in the 250 and another Japanese won the 125 race:Azuma.
13 July, 2003 British GP, Donnington Park.  Over in England to ride the the 1952 AJS three valve 7R3, that Team Obsolete had restored and delivered to the National Motorcycle Museum, at the Bsump rally at Caldwell Park on Sat., Rob Iannucci and I went down to Donnington Park to watch our first MotoGP 990 four stroke race.  We watched near Craner Curves and saw the bikes accelerating down hill out of Redgates.  Rossi finished 1st in front of Biaggi and Gibernau.  I was a bit surprised that there was a track invasion after the race finish in polite, orderly England, but we joined the crowd and walked back to the podium where everyone was adoring Rossi.  Sometime after the champagne was sprayed, it was announced that Rossi was being docked 10 seconds for passing under a waving yellow flag and therefore Biaggi was the winner with Rossi 3rd.  Rossi was again docked 10 seconds for passing under the waving yellow at the second last race of the season at Phillip Island, Australia, but this time he was notified during the race and he cranked up the pace and finished some 15 seconds in front of everyone, so still won the  race by 5.212 seconds.  The 250 finish was Nieto, Poggialli, Ant West, and the 125 was Barbera, Dovizioso, Perugini.  That was the last foreign GP that I've been to.
10 July, 2005 USGP at Laguna Seca.  After an eleven year absence, the GP was back at Laguna and again, local knowledge counted.  Nicky Hayden won with Colin Edwards 2nd and Rossi 3rd.  Many of the foreigners complained about the rough surface.  There was no 250 or 125 GP, only an AMA support program.
23 July, 2006 USGP at Laguna Seca.  I went back the next year and it was incredibly hot, over 100 degrees.  My memory is that it was Michelin that was particularly caught out by the heat.  Hayden won again with his teammate Pedrosa 2nd and Melandri 3rd, a Honda sweep.  4th was Kenny Roberts, Jr., on his dad's bike.  Hayden goes on to win the Championship.  This was Casey Stoner's first year in MotoGP and he crashed his Honda in the race.  When Ducati hired him at the end of the year, I remember thinking that that was a big mistake, that Stoner was a crasher, he'll never get anywhere.
22 July, 2007  USGP at Laguna Seca.  Stoner wins on the Ducati.  So much for my prognostications.  Vermeulen was 2nd on the Suzuki and Melandri 3rd again.  Stoner goes on to win the Championship.
22 July, 2008 USGP at Laguna Seca.  Rossi finally wins at Laguna.  This was the year that he made the famous pass through the dirt in the Corkscrew.  Stoner 2nd and Vermeulen 3rd.  Rossi goes on to win the Championship.
5 July, 2009 USGP at Laguna Seca.   Occasionally, Dani Pedrosa just nails it, and this was one of those times.  My memory is that Lorenzo crashed in qualifying or Sunday morning warmup and started the race beat up.  Nevertheless, he was the fastest qualifier and finished 3rd behind his teammate Rossi.  But Pedrosa dominated the race.  This was the 8th GP that I had been to at Laguna, in part because it's a great venue to spectate and in part because I have a great childhood friend who live nearby in Pacific Grove and who I could stay with.  But, spectating there had become increasingly difficult with VIP stands going up in some of the best viewing areas, and Laguna didn't have a 250 and 125 race.  So, ....
20 August, 2009 Indianapolis GP.  The year before they had started MotoGP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  I was somewhat skeptical about the circuit but thought I'd give it a try.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  It's far from the most interesting circuit in the world and that track food was not as good as Laguna, but it was so much easier to get to, to get in and out of, and to view.  One could walk around the majority of the circuit and the general admission grandstands were excellent.  And, it was way cheaper.  I drove there with a friend and a couple of street bikes in the van and stayed at a ridiculously inexpensive motel in the outer suburbs just beyond the ring road and commuted to the track by M/C.  Sat. night we watched Kenny Robert do a demonstration lap on the TZ750 dirt tracker on the Indian State Fairgrounds Mil.  Jorge Lorenzo won the MotoGP race, with Alex De Angelis 2nd in perhaps his best MotoGP finish and and Nicky Hayden 3rd.  Simoncelli won the 250 in front of Aoyama and Bautista.  In the 125, Pol Espargo won with Brad Smith 2nd and Simone Corsi 3rd.
29 August, 2010 Indianapolis.  My experience the previous year had me skip Laguna and return to Indy.  Lorenzo won again, this time in front of Stoner on the Ducati and Rossi on the Yamaha.  This was the first year of Moto 2 replacing 250 GP and Toni Elias won on his way to the Championship.  Simon was 2nd and Redding 3rd.  There were still 2 strokes with the 125 GP, and Nicolas Terol won in front of Cortese and Pol Espargo.  Marc Marquez was 10th for some reason, after qualifying on pole and turning the fastest lap of the race.  He probably ran off the track, but he wasn't on my radar then, though he went on to win the 125 Championship that year.  I talked to Gary Nixon for the last time while I was cruising through the pits.  I said "Nice day for a ride" and he said that he wished he was out there racing.  He told me that he had a 250 Ninja that he tore around on back home.  He said "Everybody must know I'm #1 because they go like this to me" holding up his middle finger.
20 August, 2011 Indianapolis.  Gary Nixon died two weeks before the GP and there was tribute to him.  Nicky Hayden had been asked to to do a parade lap on a Triumph Triple that Nixon had raced and was keen to do it, but apparently Honda vetoed this.  So, Steve Parrish rode the bike doing the traditional backwards lap of the circuit.  Stoner won the MotoGP race, now back on a Honda, with his  teammate Pedrosa 2nd and Ben Spies 3rd.  Marquez won the Moto2 race from Pol Espargo and Tito Rabat.  Terol again won the 125 GP on his way to winning the final 125 Championship, with Moto 3 replacing it the next year.  Vinales was 2nd and Cortese 3rd.
9 August, 2015 Indianapolis.  After missing the GP for three years because of conflicts with my racing, I was back.  It rained before the start of the Moto3 race and it was declared a wet race.  Everyone was on wet tires except Livo Loi, who changed to slicks after the siting lap, gambling that it was going to dry, but on the grid for the warmup lap.  John McPhee changed to slicks after the warmup lap and had to start from the pit lane along with Migno and Oettl.  Loi quickly got in the lead  as all the rest of the riders came into the pits to change to slicks.  He got a massive lead and it seemed like his crew was begging him to slow down, but he kept increasing his lead and won by almost 39 seconds after a best previous finish of 12th that year.  McPhee finished 2nd well ahead of Oettl.  It stayed dry the rest of the day and Rins beat Marco and Morbidelli in the Moto2 and Marquez won the MotoGP from the Moviestar Yamaha teammate Lorenzo and Rossi.
And that was the last GP that I've been to.  Maybe I'll go to COTA at Austin, Tx next year.

Monday, November 20, 2017


I just finished reading 'Built for Speed, My Autobiography' by John McGuinness.  John is the most successful living racer at the Isle of Man TT, having won 23 TT races, second only to the late Joey Dunlop, who won 26.  While the book is written 'with John Hogan',  McGuinness' voice comes through loud and clear.  He's a guy with no filter.  Beyond the profanity and bawdy idioms, McGuinness doesn't sanitize his opinions of other racers, teams, institutions, and individuals in his personal life.  Which is not to say that the book is particularly negative.  He is effusive in his praise of  much of his family, racers, and sponsors.  And, while he has a realistic and matter of fact presentation of his obvious talent, he is just as realistic about his failings.  His talent that rivals racing ability is his sense of humor.  He's incredibly funny.
John had a somewhat hard scrabble childhood.  While saying that he grew up in poverty would probably be an exaggeration, upper lower class is probably accurate.  His father was a motorcyclist, had a motorcycle repair shop, and did some club racing and that certainly influenced Johns career.  He grew up living 3 miles from the ferry to the Isle of Man and to this day has probably never lived further than 10 miles from the ferry.  His father first took him there when he was 10 years old in 1982 and he was hooked and decided then that he was going to race there.  He talks of skipping school and riding his bicycle to the ferry and, while the ticket taker was dealing with the driver of a van, he'd be hiding on the other side and pedal onboard out of sight.  But, it was long after he had done schoolboy motocross, then club short circuit road racing, then professional road racing, that he finally did race at the IOM in 1996 when he was 24 years old and had been road racing six years.  He's clear that he thinks it's important to have a level of experience and maturity to have success, and survive, TT racing.  He worked as a bricklayer then, when the recession hit (which he blames on Maggie Thatcher), he went fishing and musseling with his future father-in-law.
He speaks repeatedly about his great friend David Jefferies. They both had their TT debut the same year.  In addition to being great friend, John though David was the best TT racer at the time.  John was one of the first to come across DJ's fatal accident at the TT, one of many he has seen.
John has huge respect for Joey Dunlop and seems to carry some guilt for impetuously cutting him up a bit in one of their earliest races together.  Despite that, Joey let John into his life and he was honored that he stayed at Joey's house and they were teammates at one point.
McGuinness says that if he were putting a team together to race at the TT, his first choice would be Michael Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson next and himself third.
Family is a huge part of his life.  His parents split when he was in high school.  They always argued a lot and his dad would be drinking, fighting and chasing women.  He says that his Mum went off the rails when they split.   He has a brother who he says alway had something missing and has always been looking to get high.  So, not the ideal household and he lived with his father's mother, Nana, who he adored.  He started going out with a girl, Becky,  who lived across the street from his Nana when he was 16 and she 13 and eventually her parents took him in.  They are still together now with two children and he clearly adores them.  It seems that they give him the stability that he didn't have as a kid.  Becky writes a great forward to the book and Guy Martin writes an odd and funny forward also.
I think the book captures the tension between the allure and challenge of the TT and the risk.  On the one hand, he puts the sight of his good friend getting killed there out of his mind, but on the other he's always aware of the risk.  It seems that if everything isn't just right, he doesn't push it.  But, when everything is right, he's as good as anyone.   The book was written and came out just before John's serious crash early this year at the North West 200 road race in Northern Ireland when the bike's electronics went crazy and it was uncontrollable.  A similar thing happen to John's teammate, Guy Martin, in practice at the TT this year and he was very lucky to escape serious injury.  The bike was withdrawn from the races.  John fractured a vertebra and had a compound fracture to his tibia and fibula.  He lost bone and I believe is still in an external fixator that he has to crank up daily to get the bone to gap the space.  This begs the question 'will he ever race again?'  He talks on both sides of this issue: he'd like to go out on top but he's not bothered if he never wins another TT.  It's an issue most athletes face: when is the right time to retire.  And, he talks of the possibility of just doing the electric bike race at the TT, which is only one lap and considerably slower speeds.  He's 45 years old now.
It's a great book and one gets the sense that it's totally honest; no P.R. B.S.  It extremely funny, but not just fluff, and deals with the subject of what's really important in one's life and what motivates oneself.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 Race Record

In 2017, I raced in 13 events at 12 different venues.  I entered 46 races and started 44 of them on nine different bikes owned by five different people, including myself.  I had four DNFs, one of which was a crash, and two practice crashes, for a total of three which seems to be my average.  I had 29 firsts, 6 seconds, 7 thirds and one each fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.  I won AHRMA's 350GP and 500 Premiere Championship.  In AHRMA's 350GP class, I had 13 wins, 2 seconds, a third and DNS in the 17 races that I entered.  In the 500 Premiere class, I 'won' both days at Roebling Road when I was the only entrant.  At Sonoma, Andrew Mauk won both days against token opposition while I was in the same races, but in a different class, starting behind, but finishing well ahead on Andrew both days.  At Gingerman, Andrew was 1st both days and I was 3rd and 2nd.  At Road America, Andrew was 2nd and 1st, while I was 5th and 3rd.  Andrew didn't go to New Jersey M/S Park, but I won both days against somewhat more credible opposition than he had at Sonoma.  At Utah M/S Campus, I beat Andrew both days, Sat. by 0.010 seconds, Sun. by 0.217 seconds, two excellent races.  At Barber, Andrew won decisively and I was third.  But, Andrew was denied the chance to beat me again as Sunday's racing was canceled.  If we had raced on Sunday, if Andrew won he would have won the championship.  If he finished 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, I would have had to win to win the championship and if he finished 5th (i.e. finished the first lap, as there were only 5 starters) I would have had to finish 1st or 2nd to win the championship.  Points and championships are arbitrary and therefore don't mean much, but the satisfaction I had racing with Andrew, win or lose, means a lot.

Barber Vintage Festival

For the finale of this year's racing season, the Barber Vintage Festival, which I read somewhere claimed to be the second largest motorsports event in the country, I entered 200GP on the Dennis Latimer tuned CT1 Yamaha, and 350GP and 500 Premiere on my H-D Sprint ERTT.

Dave Ecker's CT1 Yamaha, built and tuned by Dennis Latimer
Unfortunately it seized in Friday practice and didn't race.  Dennis promises a DT1 based 250 for next year
I got to Barber Thursday afternoon and got set up, pitting between Dennis and crew and Juan Bulto and crew and got the bikes through scrutineering.
My TC200 Suzuki and ERTT racer
That evening, I went to Rusty's BBQ in Leeds with Canadians Doug MacRae and Herb Becker and introduced them to fried okra.
Friday, I went out on the CT1 first.  It seemed close though was a little reluctant to rev at the top.  We looked at the plug and, if anything, it looked rich, but we decided to leave it.  My ERTT also seemed close in the first session.
In the second round of practice, on the 3rd lap while approaching 11K rpm in 5th gear the motor slowed a bit, I clutched it and the it stopped abruptly.  It had indeed seized.  One theory is leaking crank seal.  The cylinder wasn't bad, but the piston was and they had no spare.  The bike was parked and I scratched from the 200GP class.
I put a new sparkplug in the ERTT to get a reading on jetting.  But, I stalled the motor going out pit out and couldn't push start it after a couple of attempts and had to walk it back to the starter rollers.  I finally got out on the track and almost immediately the red flag was thrown, so I got no plug chop.  It was already clear the rain was coming before the weekend was out and the question was when.  Paul Germain told me that his weather sources indicated that it would be raining by 1p Sat.  So I decided to change my front tire during Saturday's lunch break.  I had a Continental ClassicAttack front tire, which I had proved to myself didn't work in the wet when I crashed on a damp track at New Jersey M/S Park in July.  I asked Juan Bulto if he had ever raced on the Conti tire in the wet and he said he hadn't and that people in Spain agreed that they were no good in wet conditions.  Al and Dave Hollingsworth helped me change the tire to a new Avon AM26.  As I was finishing up re-installing the wheel, a fellow in a shirt with a Continental logo came up and I explained what I was doing and why.  He suggested that the 90/90 X 18 tire that I had been using wasn't a race compound as I had thought, but rather a 'high performance' street tire.  He said that the smallest tire available in the race compound was 100/90 X 18.  He got Buff Harsh of Todd Henning Racing, a Conti dealer, to stop by and Buff confirmed what I had been told.  Buff suggested that while the first versions of the race tire maybe weren't so good in the wet, the new ones were OK.  But, 100/90 X 18 is too big for my WM 2 rim, so I'm sticking with the Avon.
After I changed the front tire and put in a bigger main jet.
I went out in the 3rd practice session and scrubbed in the new tire and got a plug chop which indicated the jetting was lean and I went up a jet size. In the final practice session, the motor started running poorly as I went out on the track and died as I was approaching turn #5.  I realize at the last moment that I had forgotten to turn on the fuel.  Luckily, there is a  a connector road between Turn #5  and the back straight after the turn #10 chicane and I was able to bump start the motor with the help of a corner worker on our second try and re-enter the track.  I passed Jon Munns on his 350 Sportsman Honda, he passed me back, and I chased him for a while.  This was just what I needed to step up the pace and get my head right.  Again, the plug looked lean and consulting Peter Politiek, Sn., I went up another jet size.
Changing the main jet.  Matthew Jones photo
Sunday dawned cloudy but dry.  The scheduled had been altered with the Pro Sound of Thunder money race moved from Sun. to Sat. and people were speculating that racing might be canceled Sun. as Hurricane Nate was heading for the Gulf coast.  The 350GP race was the second of the day and I started on the pole as I was leading the points (and, in fact, had cinched the championship some time before).  350 Sportsman was gridded behind us in the second wave and Novice Production Heavyweight in the third wave.  I nailed the start and led into turn #1.  A bit after halfway through the first lap, the red flag came out as there had been a start line crash in the 2nd or 3rd wave.  After what seemed like an interminable delay, we went out for a 2nd warm-up lap.
After the red flag on the pre-grid waiting for the re-start.  George Roulson photo
I again got a good start, but Jack Parker on his DT-1 Yamaha got a better one and led in turn #1 and went right to the curb in turn #2 to block and chance of me getting underneath him.  This only postponed the inevitable as I out braked him into turn #5 and pulled away.  Later, Jack's exhaust pipe broke and he faded back.  Peter Politiek, Jr., riding Ed Sensenig's 350 Ducati, passed Paul Germain for second but then the piston came apart and he didn't finish.  In turn #11 on the last lap, Taylor Miller came by from the 350 Sportsman class with Rich Midgely chasing him.  Taylor apparently has little race experience and was riding John Miller's CB350 Honda, while John took a break from racing after a recent crash and head injury.  Germain ended up 2nd almost 13 seconds behind with Alex McLean, in his first race on a newly acquired short stroke Drixton Aermacchi, was a further nearly 18 seconds behind Paul's DT1 Yamaha.  Alex told me that he was still learning about the Aermacchi and there was more to be had, so he could be a real challenge next year.  Finally, the jetting looked good and I left it for the 500 Premiere race.  
I came to Barber leading the 500 Premiere Championship, having scored all my points on a 350 Sprint.  This says less about my brilliance as a rider than the poor participation in the class.  Participation in the older classes in general seems to be falling as rider/owners get older, and in the 500 classes in particular as they are 'Balkanized' with 500 Premiere, 500GP, Formula 500, 500 Sportsman, and Classic 60s.  The classes need to be consolidated, with 500GP particularly silly, as it is almost identical to 500 Premiere.  Anyway, only Andrew Mauk or I could win the Championship and I thought my chances were an extreme longshot as, even though I led the points, AHRMA only counts the best ten finishes and I already had ten while Andrew only had eight.  Therefore, I would have to better my one 5th place and 3rd place to gain any points while any point that Andrew scored would add to his total.  And, my chance of beating him (or Wes Orloff, for that matter) was remote.  But, one never knows and I was going to make him work for it.  We were in the second wave behind the Bears and ahead of the third wave Formula 500s.  Andrew was on a mission and led from the start with Wes 2nd and me 3rd.  I expected that Ron Melton and Helmi Niederer would challenge me, but it never happened.  We started catching some Bears bikes and then Tyler Waller came by on his Honda and Dean Singleton on his Yamaha from the F-500 class.  So, Andrew won the class and I was third and then it was announce that Sunday's racing was canceled.  Andrew asked Race Director Cindy Cowell if double points would be awarded for Saturday results as was done at Talladega when Sunday racing was canceled.  She replied "Absolutely not".  Therefore, Andrew thought that I had won the Championship, while  I thought that he had.  But, when I sat down and did the math, Andrew was right: I ended up with 8935 points and he with 8505.  Andrew told me that he came to Barber thinking that only an 'act of god' would keep him from winning the Championship, but that's what happened.  Andrew and the bike's owner/tuner, Keith Leighty, were extremely gracious with the results and I hope I made it clear to them that I love racing with them and that points and championships are extremely arbitrary and therefore don't mean much.
Keith Leighty's trailer/workshop almost packed and ready to go home to El Paso.
Some rain did come after the 500 Premiere race and several people did fall down, including John Ellis, a guy who almost never crashes, but he was on Continental tires.  The rain stopped and the final races were run in dry conditions and I was able to get packed up and eat some fish tacos with Andrew Keith, Wes and friends before it started raining again and I headed out to visit friends in Savannah.  
Pitted opposite me was this 1938 R-17 BMW, I'm told one of the rarest.

The bike seemed totally original and unrestored except for the exhaust pipes and mufflers

Stu Carter's recently acquired Bultaco TSS replica

An RD400 based racer under construction

An H-1 Kawasaki drag bike with after market (homemade?) cylinder heads
Wes Goodpasters 650 Norton which he used to win the the Classic 60s 650 class and finish 4th in Bears
A fellow asked me if he could take some photos, to which I said sure.  He's a pro: Matthew Jones  photo

Matthew Jone photo.  I've added a link to his web site on my links list

Saturday, October 14, 2017

USCRA's 2017 Fall Giro

This year's Fall Giro was based in Tannersville, Pa., in the Poconos.  In 2014, we had a Giro base in the same place, but it was disrupted by police searching for a fugitive who had shot a cop and was at large, therefore roads were shut down and routes had to be changed.  The a big Walmart truck went over a little bridge and damaged it and routes had to be changed again.  So, this year's promised to be a clean run, especially since the weather was as good as it's been on any Giro; sunny and mid 80's with a light breeze.
I brought my '68 TC 200 Suzuki and my 'problem child', Laurence Deguillme, came with me.  Laurence had not been able to finish his 160 Ducati and was therefore borrowing a CA 77 Honda.
Laurence's CA77, Doug sitting on his Benelli, Pete ready to get on his T-20 Suzuki and Dave's Matchless
My TC 200 in the foreground, Pete's T-20 behind, Doug and his Benelli on the left and Dave's Matchless G2 in the back.
Sat., after our initial agility test, we headed initially southwest, then turned northeast and eventually crossed into N.Y. at Barryville.  Along the way, a bear jumped out of high grass and Mike Tomany hit it with his Puch Allstate and crashed.  Mike broke his scapula and a rib which punctured his lung. When I got there, Mike was laying in the road, but several people had stopped and I didn't see what I could do to help, so I carried on.  Mike's son, Aaron, was following and witnessed the whole incident,  then accompanied his dad to the hospital.
We only went a few miles in N.Y. along the Delaware River and, after a time check that didn't happen because of Mike's accident, we crossed back into Pa. via the Roebling Bridge.  This was the high point of my day as I'm a big fan of the Roeblings and their bridges.  This particular one is the oldest surviving Roebling bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in the country, and was originally an aqueduct for the Delaware and Hudson Canal.  That is, it carried the canal over the Delaware River.  Now the canal is gone and it's a roadway.  It's a National Historic Landmark and has been fully restored by the National Park Service.
The Roebling Bridge
It used cables attached to a huge chain that connect to an anchor deep in the ground
What was once a canal over a river is now a roadway.
Reading the sign explaining the cable/chain system revealed opposite.
From the Roebling Bridge we headed west about 18 miles to lunch at Rusty Palmer, a huge Honda/Bombardier dealer in Honesdale, which made it 99.5 miles from our start.  Laurence had been having big problems with the 305 Dream.  It would run well for a while then run poorly and he would let it sit for a while and it would run OK again for a while.  He associated this with a quick disconnect he had in the 'crossover' hose that kept coming partially apart.  He was able to get some hose at the dealership and I helped him eliminate the disconnect without spilling too much gas.
After lunch, we headed south and after a while I caught up to the Cotter clan.  Brothers Tommy and Danny Cotter are long time Giroistas and over the years more of their sons/nephews and friends have joined in the fun.  They're all characters and ride with brio on interesting bikes (or, in Tommy's case, sometimes scooters).  I gradually worked my way through them and was leading when I just overshot a turn in Newfoundland that I saw at the last minute.  I made a U-turn, but they, being not far behind, saw where to turn and we all entered the dirt Creamery Rd. at about the same time.  Tommy turned into a parking lot immediately before the road and cut across the grass to short cut the corner, but I just caught out of the corner of my eye that he was encountering a culvert and laying his X-6 Suzuki down at maybe 5 mph.  I chuckled to myself about the irrepressible Tommy and was back leading again.  Later, I learned that further on Tommy, Danny, and one of their son/nephews were chasing their friend and entered a corner, by one account three abreast, and didn't make it, the three of them running off the road and crashing.  Apparently, Tommy broke a femur and lost the end of a finger.  Danny initially refused treatment when the ambulance came but, as soon as it left, reconsidered.  Turns out he had a broken T-6 vertebrae.  They both ended up in a Morristown, N.J. hospital (one by helicopter) to be closer to their Bayonne home.
Somewhere on Promised Land Rd., my bike went on reserve.  I didn't know if there was any fuel before I got back to base, but figured my best chances were to stay on Rt 447 rather than do an almost 10 mile loop on Snow Hill and Laurel Run Roads which came back to Rt 447.  I learned later that on a steep downhill on the marbly, dirt Laurel Run Rd., Harry Elliot locked the front brake on his Ducati and crashed, breaking his leg.  All this carnage is highly unusual.  While it's not unknown for someone to crash on a Giro, there have probably been only a couple of broken bones in the 13 Giros the USCRA  has put on, so four riders in one day is unheard of.  The only explanation I have other than random chance is that the weather was too nice.
I didn't find any fuel on Rt. 447, nor Rt.191.  At Rt. 715, I encountered Pete Swider, also on his X-6 Suzuki, and he was having problems which he thought might be low fuel related.  So, we carried on in extreme economy mode.  Three miles from the end we finally found fuel.  I never knew that my bike would do 26 miles on reserve. A 175 mile day.
Sat. eve, at the banquet dinner, Mike Gontesky was the MC.  Plenty of people were thanked for stepping up and going out to fetch broken down bikes.  One group didn't get back until 9p.  There was plenty of swag that was handed out for door prizes.
Mike Gontesky's Aermacchi Chimera. He didn't ride it in the Giro; just brought it to show it off
They were ahead of their time--not a sales success, but who wouldn't want one now?
Sun. morning, we headed south and west,  then north and west on a dirt road.  Back on pavement, we turned onto a road that seemed familiar to me.  After a while, I realized that this was the road to Pocono Raceway.  I hadn't raced at Pocono since 1984 and I think the last time that I had been there was to spectate at Formula USA race in maybe the early '90s.  Despite the fact that Pocono is perhaps my least favorite race track, I did feel a bit nostalgic passing by it.
From there we went through White Haven, then across the Francis Walter Dam, which was fairly spectacular.  Back to Blakeslee, then a bit of dirt road and on to Pocono Lake and Pocono Pines, through Little Summit and back to Chateau Resort for lunch for a 82.5 mile morning.
About 3 miles into the afternoon run, I stopped for fuel.  I had a really hard time starting the bike and after kicking and kicking, I finally push started it.  For the rest of the afternoon, the Suzuki ran poorly.  I don't usually by the 'bad gas' theory and anyway, that wouldn't make it hard to start as the fuel in the float bowls was from the previous tank.  Did I have a leaking crank seal?  We headed south and west, through Neola, then back north through Reeders, then Tannersville and back to base at Chateau Resorts for a 44.9 mile afternoon.  300 miles of great roads in fabulous warm, sunny weather.
When I got home, I checked the points and timing, pulled the exhaust pipes off, took the carbs apart and didn't find anything but sprayed through the jets.  I took the baffles out of the mufflers and they weren't clogged up, but I put the torch to them anyway.  I put it all back together and it runs great.  No smoking gun, but sometime you just have to take them apart and look at them so they know that you care.  Ah, the joys of owning an old stink wheel.
Volunteers Amy Roper and Shana with her new husband Eli Kirtz in his Swedish Army uniform
Robert Fuller's '49? Airone
Team MotoGeezer may have to change it's name as this is some of the fresh blood riding with them this time.
How not to do an agility test--a TC250 knocks over cones

Thursday, September 14, 2017

USCRA at MotoAmerica NJMP

America's premiere modern road racing organization is trying to broaden their appeal and have been dabbling in various support races.  For their second to last event, at New Jersey Motorsports Park Thunderbolt circuit, they contracted with the United States Classic Racing Association to put on a vintage race.  This was an invitational with 5 classes in one combined race: tank shifters, 250, 350, 500 and open.  It was a quality field with two Indians; Bultaco, Ducati, and TD1C 250s; three Honda CB 350s and a Yetman CB77, and Seeley 7R, and Drixton Aermacchi 350s; three Norton Manx's, a Vincent Comet, Triumph Daytona and an MV 500-4; and a BSA A75R and Honda CR 750.
I brought three Team Obsolete bikes.  The plan was for me to race a mid '60's BSA A50R, a 500cc twin which had been raced by Don Vesco, Dan Haaby and Jody Nicholas.  Canadian photographer and vintage race Doug MacRae was to race MV 500-4 and I would ride the ex-Dick Mann BSA A75R Rocket-3 in practice to get some action shots for an up coming article in Cycle World.
#11 is the BSA A50R and #7 is the MV 500 four
In our first practice Fri. morning, I had trouble with the throttle hanging up.  Then the bike started overshifting from 2nd past 3rd.  Then, it got stuck in a false neutral and wouldn't shift at all.  I pulled off at pit out and managed to get it into a gear and then couldn't get it out of gear.  A fellow pushed me back toward my pit with his Ruckus, but the clutch was dragging so badly that the motor started.  We put the bike up on a work stand and started to get to the selector mechanism, but had a lot of trouble getting the inner timing case off.  We were concerned about pulling gears out of engagement and losing the cam and ignition timing.  Then we noticed that a nut was missing from the cylinder base flange.  I borrowed a 5/16" C.E.I. nut off of Aleksey Kravcuk's MK VII Velocette KTT there on display.  But when I put the nut on the cylinder stud, it wouldn't tighten up because the stud was pulling out of the case.  At that point, we decided that this was a shop job and parked the A50R for the weekend.
So, for the 2nd practice, I rode the A75R triple.
The Dick Mann BSA A75R is up on the work stand in the background, #1
 Initially, I couldn't downshift it at all as the shift lever was too low.  I pulled in after one lap and we moved it up a spline.  Now I could downshift, but with great difficulty and the bike was geared a little short.  Doug MacRae was also having trouble downshifting on the MV four.  He didn't have enough room between the footrest and the  shift lever and when he'd hit a false neutral, the engine would die because of it's very light flywheel.  My problem was the opposite as there was too much space between the footrest and the shift lever and I had to slide my foot forward to be able to move it far enough.
Saturday morning, we put the only other rear sprocket we had for the triple on, 5 teeth smaller.  We just had one session which started with 10 minutes of practice, then a checkered flag and a return to the hot pit where we started a warmup lap for an 8 lap qualifying race.  Bob Coy, founder and leader of the USCRA, was very concerned about some one running away with the lead and making a boring race.  So he decreed that the leaders would swap back and forth for the first 5 laps, then could go for it on the last three.  Doug, on the MV, got the hole shot and led the first couple of laps.  Alex McLean on a 500 Norton Manx, Mark Heckels on a CR 750 Honda and I swapped back and forth.  I went by Doug, who was dealing with his shifting problems and Mark and I swapped back and forth.    After the 5th lap, Mark took off and on the penultimate lap, Alex came by me as I was dealing with my own shifting problems, and now the bike was geared to tall.  I was able to get back by Alex and that's how we finished.
After the race, we realized that we had another shift lever for the BSA with us.  Eli McCoy had brought another T/O A75R to display for sale.  It had a longer shift lever and we swapped that with the Dick Mann bike.
We stole the shift lever off the unnumbered Rocket 3.  This bike could be yours; it's for sale.
This is after we installed the longer shift lever
 We had no alternative for the MV however and, while he could adjust it up or down a bit (which helped marginally), Doug just had to deal with the shifter designed for Ago's little feet.
We had a short warm up Sun. morning and the longer shift lever on my bike was definitely better though not perfect.  For our race, the first of the day, Bob decreed that Doug on the MV and Chris Jensen on his Petty Manx Norton, would set the pace and we weren't to pass them until the half way point.  Also, it was decided to do a one wave start, not holding the 350, 250, and tankshifters in a second wave, as had been done Sat., to keep the bikes more bunched up.  Again, Doug got the hole shot and I followed him into turn #1, but then Kerry Smith came by on her CB350 Honda and she and I went back and forth a bit.  She then passed Doug when he was searching for a gear and I followed her.  Kerry wasn't playing to the story plan, but I was all for it as I was concerned that the choreography was looking phony.  Then, Rich Midgely came by both of us on Tim Tilghman's CB350 and I followed him.  Towards the end, Midge's bike started smoking heavily, not out of the exhaust pipes, but around them.  I thought that if he's leaking oil, I've got to get ahead of him.  As I went by, he seemed to slow and pull over.  I thought he was pulling off as he realize that he had a problem, but evidently he didn't.  Mark Heckles was following and getting covered in oil and Mark tried to warn Midge.  Between not being able to see and spending time warning Midge, Mark wasn't able to catch me and I 'won', expecting Mark to come by sometime on the last lap.  Luckily, no significant amount of oil got on the track and no one fell down.
The vintage presence was very well received by both the spectators and modern bike racers and negotiations are under way for the USCRA to put on a three or four race series at the eastern MotoAmerica races next year.
Doug, Eli and I stayed and watched the final race, the Superbike race, which was entertaining.  Toni Elias, who had cinched the championship winning Saturday's race, came around the first lap well back.  Apparently, his foot had got hit with some debris shortly after the start and he was very much distracted by the pain and dropped back.  He started marching through the field and it was a question if he could catch the leaders.  Rodger Hayden led the race until the last lap, but privateer Kyle Wyman was right with him, fading a little towards the end.  Elias passed Hayden in turn#1 of the last lap and apparently ran Hayden wide off the track and Wyman was able to pass Hayden also for a dramatic finish.
Mike Gontesky supplied a 250 Ducati for Tony Foale to ride.  It broke a piston and here he is finishing the installation of a spare motor.  Unfortunately, the spark plug didn't get properly tightened and blew out in the race.

Several great bike were on display including Aleksey Kravcuk's 1938 MK VII KTT Velocette and the 1912 Harley Davison on which Mike Gontesky completed the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bonneville Vintage GP

I flew back from the IOM Wed. Around 7pm, coming down with a cold on the plane, and flew to SLC Fri. at 11:30a.  I rode my M/C to the airport for the first time.  I used my '68 TC 200 Suzuki as it has a great rack that's useful for carrying big loads.

The M/C parking at JFK is free as is the AirTrain to the terminals.  It worked really well.
M/C parking at JFK
And, when I returned on the 'red eye' Sun.night, the bike was still there at dawn Mon. morn
Walt Fulton and Nancy Foote picked me up at the Airport and we drove to the track and got there just before Karl Engellenner arrived with the bikes, driving from Roseville, Ca.  We got everything unloaded and took the bikes through tech.
Mike Bungay had repaired and painted the fairing and Karl had mounted a new windscreen after my Sears Point indiscretion
Dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Tooele, then early to bed, as I was on a time zone probably somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.  
First practice Sat. went well, though we had to re adjust the front brake and clutch and Karl went to a bigger main jet.  After the bike's last outing at Sonoma in April, Karl discovered that one of the four front brake shoes was worn almost completely away, so he sent that shoe off to Vintage Brake and had it re-lined, then arced it himself.  So, things were still bedding in, but already the brake seemed better than before.  The second practice went better and I thought we were ready to race.
My first race was the bump-up class: 500 Premiere.  There were only three of us in the class, but my two competitors were formidable:  Helmi Niederer on the NYC Norton prepared Seeley G-50 replica and Andy Mauk on Keith Leighty's CB 450 Honda based racer.  We had Classic 60's and 500 Sportsman gridded behind us.  Andy got the holeshot and I followed him into turn #1.  I was able to pass Andy halfway through the second lap and led overall for about a lap.  But Andy came back by and then started to gap me and I thought that it was probably over.  But, after a couple of laps, Andy started to come back towards me and pretty soon, I thought that this maybe possible.  I passed him shortly before the the last lap flag.  We both put in our fastest lap on the last lap and in fact Andy's was about 2 seconds faster that he had gone up until then and fastest of the race.  He got the drive out of the last corner and came up along side me as we took the checker flag  and it was virtually a photo finish.  I thought I had the win, but couldn't be sure.  Turns out that I did win, by one hundredth of a second.  A great race.  Andy told me after that they were going to change the gearing (shorter) and move his transponder further forward on the bike.
My second race was the 350 GP and the seven of us in the class were gridded in front of the 350 Sportsman in the first wave and Novice Historic Production Heavyweight in the second wave.  Again, it was a formidable field: my teammate Walt Fulton on Karl's near identical sister bike, Jim Neuenberg on Fred Mark's short stroke 350 Aermacchi and Paul Germain on his DT-1 Yamaha, with which he had easily won the 250GP race run earlier.  I got the holeshot and led flag to flag, but starting the 2nd or third lap, Walt stuck a wheel in on me going into turn #1.  Being the gentleman he is, he didn't stuff me and it snapped me out of my stupor and I wasn't challenged again.  Walt finished a close 2nd, well ahead of Paul in 3rd.  A great day and the bikes seemed ready for Sunday.  
I had a problem charging my transponder..  I had charged it partially before leaving, but Fri. night it wouldn't charge more.  Sat., I borrowed a charging cradle from Ralph Wessel and, with much fiddling with the leads, it would charge, but the slightest bump and it would stop charging.  So, after dinner, J. Braun, a old friend from Connecticut who now lives in Tooele, helped me diagnose the problem and come up with a solution.  We checked the continuity and output of all components, and the problem seemed to be the plug between the transformer and charger cradle.  J came up with the idea of charging the transponder directly from a Battery Tender, but it wouldn't 'recognize' the transponder.  He surmised that there wasn't a strong enough signal from the transponder for the sensor in the Tender to recognize, but if we wired it in parallel to a motorcycle battery that was on the Tender, then it would charge.  But, J didn't have the equipment to make the parallel connection, so we took a trip to Home Depot and bought some alligator clips and wire, went back to his house and made up some connectors and it worked.  The transponder was fully charged in the morning.
Sun. morning, both Walt and I were thinking that we'd skip the first practice session as the bikes were ready and we were dialed in.  But, while checking over my bike, I found a broken spoke in the rear wheel.  Karl had spare spokes, as this is not the first time this has happened.  The spokes were too long it get into an assembled wheel, so I borrowed a Drehmel tool and cut the spoke shorter until it would go into the hole in the rim with a little bending.  This required letting most of the air out of the tire and pushing the nipple in.  Then we couldn't get the spoke to drop into the nipple so that it would pop out enough to turn it.  So, we had to dismount the tire and Art Kowitz in the adjacent garage had all the facilities to do this--his 'Tire Shop', a 35 gallon drum, bead breaker, tire irons, tire lube, valve core removers, etc., etc.  we soon had it all back together, Karl using a spoke nipple torque wench to tighten it.
Art Kowitz' Tire Shop
Karl torquing the spoke nipple
ready to receive the repaired wheel
So Walt and I went out for the second round of practice, and I only did three or four laps as everything felt good.  However, Walt did one more and, on his last lap, the bike started to vibrate a lot.  He and Karl found two broken motor mounts when he came in, and we jumped into yanking the engine out of the frame to see if we could get it welded.  After much searching, Walt finally found a track maintenance guy who said he could weld it.  When they started to reinstall the motor they found it wouldn't quite fit and we had to borrow that Dremel tool again and relieve the rewelded mount. I had to break off at this point to get ready for the 500 Premiere race.
Karl's bike coming apart to repair the frame
Karl (left) and Walt (right) deal with the shift linkage
Own an Sprint and you live under it.  Kenny Cummings photo
With the chassis off being welded, this was all that was left
The motor going back in being persuaded with a ratcheting tie-down
I had no confidence that I could beat Andy again as I figured he'd have his bike more dialed and he had turned the fastest lap of Saturday's race.  Andy got a great start and gapped me substantially by the third lap.  But, then again, he started coming back to me.  I caught him and passed him on the second last lap.  Somewhere in here my tach stopped working.  Andy passed me back and I passed him back in the corner onto the back straight.  At the end of the straight, he passed me back, but he got in too deep and off line and had to run off the track.  I took the last lap flag thinking that I had a fairly decent lead, but then my motor started misfiring and cutting out.  I started short shifting and was able to to nurse the bike to the finish.  After Andy recovered, he again turned the fastest lap of the race, but it wasn't quite enough and I won by less than half a second.
I never seem to be able to get a clean picture of Keith Leighty's 450 based Honda as he works on it in his trailer.  Keith on the left and half of Andy Mark on the right
Karl founded a bunch of trash in the fuel line between the fuel tap and and fuel filter and the line would barely flow any fuel.  This seemed to explain the misfiring and, after clearing the line, all seemed well.  Walt did a scrub lap on Karl's bike and he pronounced the bike ready.
Again, I got the holeshot in the 350 GP race and again I led from flag to flag and this time, no one put a wheel in on me, but apparently the jackals were not far behind.  I still had some misfire at part throttle and my fastest lap was the slowest of the four races, but it didn't effect performance too much and every else seem slightly slower.  Apparently, Walt tried to make a move on me on the first lap but ran out of room and had to check up and Jon Munns on his Sportsman CB 350 Honda and Jim Neuenberg got by him.  Walt got back by Jim after he watch him almost highside after he caught a bike slide and then got by Jon too, to finish 2nd again.
This makes 15 consecutive 1st in class (and more than half of them 1st overall) in the races I've been in on my own bikes. And, hats off to Karl who has built a couple of fabulous bikes on the foundation that Mike Bungay laid.
Motorcycle Classics again had a show/concours.  Here a rigid Matchless G-80
A mid '60's Triumph TRW.  I never knew they were made that late
There were three serious K models
Straight from Bonneville?
The BMW section
The only two Japanese bikes in the show: a Yamaha CS1 and a CX 500 Honda
In the middle, a beautiful Clubman Goldstar
There were not one, but two Suter MMX 500's at the event
This one was being rebuilt after a track day crash
Adrian Jasso's Suter had run on Fri., but had a clutch problem
The motor is a 576cc V-4, twin crank, fuel injected two stroke
Hold on tight
There always seems to be some interesting bike haulers at the Bonneville VintageGP
This was event organizer Tom Cullen's 1954 Flxible bus with a much newer motor
A work in progress