Saturday, May 20, 2017

USCRA Spring Giro 2017

The USCRA's Spring Giro this year was in Asheville, N.C.  The course was laid out by director Will Paley, and it was a fabulous one. I rode my '68 TC 200 Suzuki.
 We had some rain Fri. pm and over night and, while it was dry when we started Sat. morning, it rained a bit and we encountered some fog early on.  This made the dirt sections quite greasy and a challenge on skinny road tires.  Gary McCaw may have had the greatest challenge on his Ducati Diana MkIII with clip on handlebars.
The clip ons on Gary McCaw's Ducati Diana MkIII were a challenge on the dirt
 We headed east through Black Mountain to Old Fort, then north.  We sort of circled around the south side of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point in the U.S. east of the Mississippi.  Along the way, I stopped to help Carl Bachman who I saw stopped by the side of the road with his totally original 200 Bultaco Metralla.
Carl Bachman on his 200 Bultaco Metralla
He thought he had just fouled a plug and his plug wrench wouldn't fit under his tank.  Mine did and he put in a new plug, but then discovered that there was a lot of slack in the throttle cable, which we soon discovered was because the slide was stuck in the bore of the carb.  Carl got it out, but when he put it back, it jammed good and proper and he packed it in and called the 'sag wagon'.
Lunch was at the Ice Cream Deck in Micaville, where Tommy Cotter repaired the clutch cable on his bike in the now warm sunshine.  From lunch, we headed north through Double Island and Green Mountain.  Then I got quite lost and stopped to help another lost Giroista who's S-65 Honda had somehow lost the pin that drives the points cam off the OHC.  A local stopped and offered confusing directions and I headed off.  But, I soon lost faith and returned to the stranded S-65.
This isn't the S-65 Honda that got lost and died, but another one ridden by Doug Evans
It's rider had found a nail which he was going to try to use in place of the missing pin and he used the file/hacksaw in my Swiss Army Knife to shorten it.  The nail was too small in diameter and allowed too much slop in the points cam and, while the motor fired some, it wouldn't keep running.  I left him to the wolves, and tried to find the route again. He didn't get picked up until 7:30p as he was off the route and couldn't describe where he was.  Eventually, I found a road that was on the route sheet, though I was on it from the wrong direction.  This took me south and, after another challenging dirt section, took me to Barnardsville,  then Weaverville and back to south east Asheville.
That night at the banquet, Mike Gontestky played MC and got Gary McCaw and me up there to talk about our experiences of racing at the Isle of Man.
Sunday was glorious weather and we headed north and west to Weaverville via the Blue Ridge Parkway and Ox Creek Rd., then on to Bernardsville and Mars Hill.  The roads were fabulous with great views.  Grapevine, Big Laurel, Revere, and Lonely Mountain roads was an especially delightful section.
We had a time check at the Barnard River Park, and while there, Stewart Hall, father of Jake and Rob of HCV and a local, showed Rich Hosley and me a cache of old cars and trucks across the street and slowly returning to the earth.  He had his eye of a '49 Chevy pickup there, but I though "don't get involved".  Rob and Jake showed up, Rob on a 125 Sachs Boondocker and Jake on a 175 Hercules of dubious vintage.
Rob Hall's 125 Sachs Boondocker
The Herc had started running poorly and they suspected the coil in the magneto.  They had a coil, puller and impact driver with them.  What they didn't have was a hammer, but used a rock instead to pound on the impact driver to remove the flywheel and replace the coil and they were on their way again; what's the big deal?  I got a little lost again but managed to find my way into Marshall for lunch.  From Marshall, it was south through Stoney Knob and into North Asheville with a very challenging section of loose, large diameter gravel on Beaver Dam Rd.  Nearly 300 miles (well over 300 miles with my wrong turns) of terrific roads in mostly great weather.  This may have been the best Giro yet.
Jeremy Simpson's 175 Bridgestone Hurricane Scrambler
A 250 X-6 Suzuki
Lined up for the morning's agility test
My brother Doug on his 250 Benelli.  He had a rough Giro with the bike dying Sat. because both carb float bowl vents were plugged (which took a lot of diagnosing), then Sunday being rammed from behind and knocked down, breaking his front brake lever.  How he handled some of those steep downhills with no front brake I'll never understand.
There were four different Puch tingles on this Giro, this being a 250 badged as an Allstate
This is a '58 175 Allstate twingle, the oldest bike in this Giro 
I particularly admired his home made 'milk crate' with everything a Puch Giroista would need.
Jake Hall sitting on my TC200 Suzuki after we'd finished
evidence of the muddy dirt roads we had encountered.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Willow & Sonoma 2017

I flew out to California for the annual AHRMA Willow Springs/Sonoma Raceway back to back events still suffering from a cold that started a week before.
At Willow, I practiced first on Gary Roper's '51 Velocette MAC and it seemed fast immediately, if geared a little short.  Gary said it had the tallest gearing he owned, but when he got to Sonoma, he discovered that it had a 22 T gearbox sprocket, not the 23T that he thought that was on it.  So I ran the whole weekend under geared and revving the hell out of it.  In the 2nd practice on the MAC the right handlebar moved on the fork and Gary tightened it up.  In the 3rd practice, it moved again an Gary replaced the plan nuts on the pinch bolts with stop nuts and I tried moving it again.  Then Mike Bungay saw that it wasn't the clip on moving on the fork tube, but the tube turning in the yokes, and tightening up the pinch bolts in the yokes solved the problem.
Gary Roper's '51 Velocette MAC
On the 350 H-D Sprint, it goes well, but I have some shifting problems.  The 1st quick practice, I just scrubbed in new tires and the freshly refurbished front brake, but miss the 4th to 5th shift once.  The 2nd practice was red flagged after a lap.  In the third practice, I turn a good lap time, but it pops out of 5th gear twice.  I think it's because my foot is hitting the connecting rod in the shift linkage and Karl bends out the shift pedal.

Karl Engellenner with the two Sprints, mine #7 and his #177, which Walt Fulton III rides.
For my first race, the 350GP class was gridded behind the 350 Sportsman class and in front of Formula 250 in the first wave with Vintage Superbike Lightweight and Novice Historic Production Heavyweight in the second wave.  As I was completing my warm-up lap and coming to the grid, the gearbox seemed reluctant to downshift and I kept hitting the shift lever, eventually finding a neutral.  When I kicked it into gear when the flag dropped, the motor stalled immediately because the clutch didn't disengage and I was probably in a false neutral between 3rd and 4th.  Behind me, Robert Aegerter got a good launch and found me parked in his path.  His shift lever hit my left foot and was folded back, preventing him from shifting and ending his race, too.  I had a struggle getting my bike off the track as the clutch wouldn't disengage, but eventually found neutral.
Robert Aegerter's shifter, bent when it hit my left foot.

Walt Fulton, on Karl's sister bike to mine, chased Juan Bulto and closed on him, turning the fastest lap of the race, but came up just under 1/4 second short and 2nd overall.
Disassembly of my clutch revealed that the lock washer for the nut retaining the outer clutch basket had broken and the nut had backed off into the clutch hub preventing it from disengaging.  Some shimming and Loctite solved the problem.
the broken clutch basket nut lock washer
Karl working on the clutch
But, in the mean time, I was out immediately in the Class "C" Footshift class on the Velo MAC.  The 200GP class was gridded in the first wave with Class "C" Foot and Hand Shift in the second wave and Novice Historic Production behind us.  I led the second wave from the start and started catching the 200GP bikes.  I ended up passing all but two of the 200GP, Lorraine Crussell and Thad Wolf, and turning the fastest lap of the race.
Karl got the clutch working on the Sprint and I did a 'scrub' lap before the day was over and the shift was OK, but not perfect.
There were some legendary retired racers there Sat. and, though I didn't get to speak to Wes Cooley, I did talk to Mark Brelsford who, in 1970, raced the ERTT I own at Talladega at the beginning of his road race career.  Mark lives in Alaska and was down in California for the annual Trailblazers Dinner and show.  And, I was introduced to Marty Lunde, a Californian who started racing in this country in the 60's then lived in England for a while and raced at the Isle of Man and some Grand Prixes.  We talked about the IOM and TT racing.  Then, the next morning, I ran into Mark Miller, the second American to win a TT.  I constantly have to correct people who say that I'm the only American to win a TT and tell them that Mark won the electric bike race in 2010.  Some people scoff and imply that the electric bike race wasn't a 'real' TT.  But, I'm sure many people think the one and only Senior Historic TT that I won was not a 'real' TT.  Mark raced in 49 TTs in 11consecutive years and is the fastest American to lap the Mountain Circuit.  Mark is also an excellent writer and I told him how impressed and moved I was by reading his description of almost dying in a crash approaching Quarter Bridge when he was running 5th in the Senior TT and had just achieved his goal of being the fastest American to lap the course.  I wondered after I read this  if he would go back there and race again and, sure enough, he did.  But he, like me, decided that he had some good runs there and got away with it, and that he didn't need to race there anymore.  He also wrote an excellent report of racing at Macau last year.  Mark was racing a full house GSXR in Next Generation Superbike at Willow.
Two of the nicer bikes from the annual show at Willow Springs
A 125 Ducati and 150 Moto Morini
a couple of Roland Ortiz' Bultacos
Roland took the rider school on this 250 Bultaco
An electric bike built by Ely Schless from an RS 250 chassis and Brammo running gear.
Jason Linquist's CB175 Honda with his DT1 Yamaha and Kerry Beriont's T-20 Suzuki in the background 
In Sunday's 350GP race, I didn't get the best start, not being quite ready for a quick flag.  In turn #1, I saw that Walt got pushed wide and I got by him on the inside.  We got by the 350 Sportsman bikes by turn #5 and Juan and I were 1st & 2nd overall.  His 350 Bultaco really accelerated well, but slowly I caught up to him.  I was able to dive under him at the exit of the Omega, but he was able to motor past on the back straight.  At one point, we came upon a back marker in turn #9 and somehow I knocked my gearbox into a false neutral.  I shifted up into 5th to be safe, but realized that I had to go back to 4th and Juan gapped me a bit.  I was able to close back up and pulled along side several times.  Two or three times I'd get right on his rear wheel coming out of the final turn #9, but he would slowly creep away up the straight and that's how it finished with Juan beating me to the checkered flag by just over 1/4 of a second.
I was immediately back out on the Velo MAC.  This time, Lorraine Crussell, winner of Saturday's 200GP race, stalled on the grid at the start, and there was quite a delay before they let us go in the second wave.  Despite that, on the last lap I caught the leading 200GP bikes and won overall, again with the fastest lap in the race.
From Willow, I drove up to Roseville with Karl and, for most all of the next three days, we worked on the bikes.  We took the clutch apart on my bike and Karl crated more clearance between the outer clutch basket and the inner hub.  We noticed that a bushing for the shift shaft in the outer cover had moved outboard and thought it might be related to the reluctance to downshift, so pressed it back in with red Loctite.  Karl made a clevis for the shift linkage to replace the Heim joint to eliminate an interference between the shift lever and the connecting link.  I took the front brake apart (200mm 4LS Kawasaki A1R), which had been freshly relined and turned by Vintage Brakes.  The shoes hadn't fully seated yet as one doesn't use the brakes much at Willow, but they were on their way.  I made some screens for the air scoops.  We change the gearing for Sonoma by adding two teeth to the rear.  But, the big project was putting a muffler on my bike.  Last year, I had repeatedly tripped the noise meter at Sonoma despite efforts to quite it down and ultimately had to roll off the throttle by the sound meter, which killed the lap times.  Oddly, Walt Fulton, riding the same bike, never exceeded the noise limit.  Karl had previously acquired a Cone Engineering megaphone styled muffler and ultimately made a completely new exhaust system which was well tucked in and proved to be significantly quieter.
Karl at work on the pipe

Karl's beautiful Ducati 750GT
The Cone Engineering muffler installed
We changed the gearing on Karl's bike which Walt rides, washed it, then tried to start it.  It fired some, but wouldn't stay running.  We took the carb apart and checked connections, but it still wouldn't run.  Karl checked the timing, which hadn't changed, took the carb apart again and put in a new sparkplug and it finally ran.
We loaded up both bikes in Karl's pickup with all the spares and tools and drove the 1 1/2 hours down to the track, arriving around 5:30 Wed. afternoon.  Gary Roper and Don Lange, with whom we were sharing a garage, had already arrived and we unloaded our pile.  Karl pulled the head off his bike to repair a minor oil leak, got it buttoned back up an headed back home.  I went with Don and his brother Bill to dinner and a motel in Novato.
Don Lange's CB 175 Honda
Gary wasn't able to get his Indian running close to properly, so he elected to race his Velo MAC instead.  I changed my Class 'C' entry on the Velo to Sounds of Singles 3 on the Sprint.  SOS 3 is the smallest modern class for single cylinder bikes and allows slick tires and tire warmers.
Thurs. morning was pretty cool and on the first lap of practice I had a slide accelerating out of the turn #10 chicane, then saw the red flag and returned to the pits.  After the mess was cleaned up, we went out again and when I got to turn #8, the rear end snapped sideways when I got on the gas.  I went sky-ground-sky-ground and the bike slid down the track, over the grass and back on the track.  After I figured that I was alright, I ran to the bike to get it off the track.  But, I couldn't lift it without putting my bak to the oncoming bikes, so I left it and walked to the corner worker station.  The bike laid in the middle of the track for two or three laps before they finally redflagged the the practice again.  It was a stupid cold tire/cold track mistake on my part, but I and the bike made out surprisingly well for a perhaps 75mph crash with a fair amount of  tumbling.  So, we got right to work on the bike,  The left footrest and brake pedal were bent, the left clip pushed in, the windscreen partially broken, and the left fairing mount bent.

Pete Hokastad loaned us a great aluminum pipe with which we straightened most of it.  We trimmed the jagged edges of the windscreen and put a layer of tape over it.  We had to replace some Dzus fasteners and receiver wires for the fairing.
The Sprint kicked it straight after my dumb crash
 We got it all done and run back through tech inspection just as the second round of my practice group was starting and I got in 7 laps, this time setting a more prudent pace and working up to speed.  We just had to make a couple of minor adjustment and the bike was ready to race.
Race #4 had the electric bikes in the first wave, the three 500 Premiere bikes in front of the ten 350GP bikes and the two Formula 250 bikes in the second wave.  I got a good start and led the wave out of turn #2.  On the first lap, Juan Bulto came by on the brakes going into there turn #10 chicane, and I gave chase.  I did get by him as we went through the electric bikes, but he came by again in the same place making excellent use of the 210mm 4LS Menani front brake on his Bultaco.  As the race went on, my front brake lever was coming back to the grip as my freshly refurbished brake bedded in and I had some trouble downshifting and Juan prevailed with me second and Walt Fulton third.
Hub Zemke's 350 Bultaco superbly developed by the Romero brothers in Barcelona
The Bultaco lineup with a modern e-bicycle, Juan's 250, Hub Zemke's 350 and Jim Neuenburg's 250
Karl re-adjusted the front brake, and we found that the shift shaft bushing had again moved outboard again and Karl pounded it back, but he and Mike both had to leave before the SOS 3 race #8.
Bears, Vintage Superbike Heavyweight, and Formula Vintage were gridded in the first wave, with Sound of Singles 3 and Novice Historic Production Heavyweight in the second wave.  I got a decent start, but Motorcyclist co-editor Ari Henning came by like a shot on his well developed KTM 390R and disappeared.
Ari Henning's 390 KTM
After a couple of laps, Mick Hart got by me on his RS 125 Honda.  I found that I had an advantage on Mick exiting the turn #1 chicane and driving up the hill to turn #2 and I could lead from there into the turn #5 carousel, but Mick would come by on the exit.  We repeated this a couple of times but again, my front brake lever started coming back to the grip and I failed to make the downshift into the last corner and Mick gapped me.
Mick Hart's RS 125 Honda
We came up on Peter Hokestad and Darrin Gauvin on their Vintage Superbikes and Mick and I got by them both, but Pete got back by me, but not Mick, and I finished third in class and fourth overall.
I decided that my bike was geared too tall and added a tooth to the rear sprocket, I adjusted up the front brake again, and dropped one mainjet size on Karl's recommendation, before we left the track for the night.
Fri., the first practice went well except the tach stopped working because I hadn't charged it's battery properly, so I couldn't get an accurate fix on the gearing change, but it felt better.  Karl put in a new spark plug for the second practice to get a fresh reading on the jetting change and the front brake adjustment seemed to be stabilizing as the shoes bedded in.  Again I got a good start and led the second wave out of turn #2 and again, Juan came by on the brakes into the turn #10 chicane.
I believe the 1st lap of Friday's race #4. Photo by Carmen Lynaugh
photo by Carmen Lynaugh
I'm leading with Andy Mauk #95 on Keith Lieghty's CB 450 based 500 Premiere bike, #177 Walt Fulton III, Juan Bulto obscured behind Walt and Jason Linquist #13 on his DT1 Yamaha.  Carmen Lynaugh photo
This is the exit of turn#2 and one can see the second wave going into turn #1 at the top.  Carmen Lynaugh photo
He is demon on the brakes.  I chased him a couple of laps, then failed to get the motor downshifted for the 180 degree turn #6 at the far end of the course and Juan gapped me.  I figured that it was over, but after another lap or two, Juan was coming back to me.  On the second to last lap, Juan got baulked by traffic in turn #6 and I got right on his rear wheel.
We came up on two back markers on the approach to the turn #10 chicane.  Juan chose to go to the left around the outside of the initial right, while I dove to the inside.  Juan got baulked again and I got by and led over the line starting the last lap.  As I expected, once again, Juan came by on the brakes into the turn #10 chicane but, as we exited, the red flag came out before we got to the last turn.  This meant that scoring reverted to the previous lap when I led, so I was the winner with Juan 2nd and Walt 3rd.  The win had a lot to do with the luck of the draw in traffic, but I had the satisfaction of the fastest lap of the race, just under 2 minutes at 1:59.977.
I adjusted up the brake one last time for the SOS 3 race. Again, Ari shot into the lead on his 390 KTM.  On the first lap I saw Mick out of the corner of my eye as we exited there turn #5 carousel, but he didn't make it past until the same place on the next lap.  I suspect that Mick had rejetted or change his gearing, or both, as it didn't seem that I could close on the drive up to turn #2 as I had the day before and Mick steadily pulled away, and put in a 1:59.095 lap, while I went a bit slower than I had in the 350GP race.  Still, I ended up third and this time third overall as the three of us from the second wave got by all the other bikes.
It was a great week of racing between the two tracks with excellent dicing with Juan and Mick.
a 1960 Lotus Elan
A very original '69 H1 Kawasaki

Motorcyclist co-editor Zack Courts raced this Kramer powered by a 690 KTM and  SOS1 and Sound of Thunder 2 both days
A road racer built out of a Rickman Montesa dirt bike
Love them wavey cylinder head fins