Tuesday, August 22, 2017

'67 Canadian GP Celebration addendum

Mike Gontesky just sent me a bunch of photos he took at Mosport.
On the Surtees Special AJS 7R.  I think this is turn #4
A little further along in the same corner, I guess
Same corner with Frank Camilleriei #33F on the TD1C that he raced back in the '67 race and Peter Hurst #560 on a 750 Norton Atlas

On the Arter Matchless G-50 #59, with Jeff Peters #45 on a CB750 Honda, Louie Raffa #176 (obscured behind Jeff ) on a RD 400 Yamaha and Vin Borbone #860  on a Kawasaki triple, entering turn #5, I think
Chasing Vin Borbone exiting turn #5?
all photos by Mike Gontesky

Sunday, August 20, 2017

VRRA's 50th Anniversary Celebration of the '67 Canadian GP

1967 was Canada's centenary and, as part of the celebrations, the government helped finance the one and only Canadian Grand Prix, the second last round of the World Championship that year.  Last weekend, the VRRA celebrated the 50th anniversary of that event and tried to get as many riders and machines that were in the event to attend.  I didn't bring my own bike, but instead brought three of Team Obsolete's stable: the Arter Matchless G-50 which is probably the actual bike that Mike Duff raced to third place behind Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini; the Surtees Special AJS 7R, a bike that Mike Duff, Peter Williams and Dave Hughes raced; and the Dick Mann BSA Rocket 3.  The plan was for Michelle Duff to parade the Arter G50 and the Surtees 7R and for Alan Cathcart to parade and practice on all three bikes for an article, and for me to race the Surtees Special.
In the first practice on Friday, it seemed like the 7R was over geared and we changed the rear sprocket from 49T to 50T.  But, it still didn't want to pull the revs and we put in one size smaller main jet.  Then we dropped the main jet again.  While it would start easily and accelerate pretty well, it didn't want to rev, so we borrowed an 18T gearbox sprocket from Roger McHardy and change from the 19T that was on it Fri. evening.
There was no practice Sat., and the first event was '67 GP Celebration race, a special event for P1 bikes.  We assembled on the grid with dead engines and our mechanics in whites.
Paddy Fitzgerald and I discuss tactics on the grid.  Ron Agnello photo

Chris Hurst and Paddy Fitzgerald admire the Surtees Special and try to psych me out.  Ron Agnello photo
We did a push start for the warm-up lap to give the spectators a taste of what it was like in the good ol' days, but started the race with a clutch start.
bump starting the Surtees Special for the warm up lap.  Bill Murphy photo
 I finished 5th behind the 500 twins of Dave Cote, Paul Brubaker, and Brian Henderson, and the 750 BMW of Doug Forbes.  The 7R went better with the lower gearing, but I still wasn't satisfied with it's unwillingness to rev.
Approaching the finish of the '67 GP Celebration race.  Ron Agnello photo
Then we went into parade laps.  Michelle Duff rode the Arter Matchless G-50, Alan Cathcart rode the BSA A75R Rocket 3 and I rode the Surtees Special.
Michelle Duff on the left, Alan Cathcart on the right.  Larry Morris photo

Alan Cathcart on the Dick Mann BSA A75R with Michelle Duff behind and Josh Mackenzie holding the 7R while I go to find out what's going on.  Larry Morris photo
After a few laps we traded bikes and Michelle rode the Surtees Special and Alan rode the Arter G-50  and finally Alan rode the Surtees Special.
Cathcart on the Surtees Special with Pat Nicholson escorting him.  Bill Murphy photo
We all agreed that the Surtees Spl. handled the best with light, quick steering, despite it's 19" wheels as opposed to the 18" wheels on the other bikes.
My next race was after lunch in the P1-350 class gridded behind the P2-Heavyweight and P2 Middleweight Production.  There were 54 entrants overall in this race  and it was very busy.  Early on, I got a few rain drops on my windscreen.  Just after I got the half way flag, someone in front of me crashed in turn #1 and I had to check up.  When I got to turn #4, the red flags came out and I assumed it was for that crash and stopped at turn #5.  In Canada, one has to stop at the next marshal's station as the ambulance won't roll with bikes moving on the track.  We waited there a while before they finally told us to motor back to the paddock.  By this time it was raining and by the time I got to turn#8, it was pouring rain mixed with hail.  EZups were flying all over and by the time we got our pit secured enough to get out of the rain, we were thoroughly soaked.  There was quite a long delay as, even after it stopped raining, there was standing water in many places.  I wondered if we were done for the day, but they finally restarted the race as a 3 lap dash.  The track was mostly dry, but there were damp patches that had to be felt out.  I went back an forth with Paddy Fitzgerald on his Norton Atlas and managed to stay ahead, but Kevin Dinsmore came by at the end on his CB350 Honda  and I ended up 4th in class and 12th overall.
exiting turn #2 on the Surtees Spl.  Ron Agnello photo
Rob Iannucci trying to diagnose the 7R's problem

By this time we were wondering if we had gone the wrong  way on the jetting and decide to go much richer for the Pre-65 350 race gridded behind P1-Open.  But, the richer jetting didn't help and the motor was getting rattley.  Again, I chased Paddy Fitzgerald's Atlas but this time couldn't stay ahead and Tim Tilghman motored by me on the last lap to win the class and me 2nd in class and 5th overall, Paul Brubaker winning overall with Brian Henderson behind him.
Paddy Fitzgerald #163, Tim Tilghman #T25 and me jockey for position in turn #2.  Ron Agnello photo
The 7R had gotten progressively slower and we didn't like the sound of it.  We hadn't been able to find the cause, so decided to park it and switch my entries to the Arter Matchless for Sun.
Saturday evening there was a terrific banquet with Alan Cathcart acting as M.C. Before he got started, Rob Iannucci was present with a birthday cake and every one sang Happy Birthday.  He was also given a marvelous welded metal sculpture of a Honda 6, made by Dave Mascioli.
Alan then proceeded to weave the story of the '67 GP by interviewing many of the participants who were there.  Starting with the 125GP, he talked with Robert Lusk, then Jim Allen.  Jim said that it was his first year of racing, maybe his 3rd or 4th race ever and that he rode an 80cc Suzuki bore out to 100cc.  Bill Ivy, on the works Yamaha water-cooled V-4 lapped Jim on the 3rd lap and 3 or 4 times more.  Jim said that he had no business being in this race and it's unimaginable now, but it was a different time and I guess they were desperate for entries.
Next, Alan told the story of the 250GP through Rod Gould, who wasn't at the Canadian GP, but later  won the 250 World Championship, Phil Read, who was quite funny, Frank Camillieri, and Yvon Du Hamel.  He also got Tom Faulds, then head of Honda Canada, to tell the story of helping Mike Hailwood and Ralph Bryans with their 250 Honda 6s and later how he got possession of the 297 6 cylinder Honda that had been sent to Canada as a 'hack' backup.
Finally came the story of the 500GP through Dave Lloyd and Michelle Duff.  Unfortunately, the microphone started playing up for Michelle, and I had a lot of trouble hearing her.  Alan did a great job of giving insight to this race 50 years ago.  By the way, the only two people who arrived at the banquet on motorcycles were Toni Sharpless and Kathleen Coburn, who both raced with distinction over the weekend.
Sunday morning, I changed my entries to the Arter Matchless.  Because it has a disc brake, I had to enter P2-Heavyweight (up to '72 750s) and bump up to P3-Lightweight (up to '82 550 four cylinder/650 twins/unlimited singles), a tough row to hoe.  Dean De St. Croix was to ride Ken Rosevear's 350 Goldstar powered Geoff Monty replica, but he crashed one of Maurice Candy's 500 Manx Nortons in Saturday's P1-500 race and broke his big toe and a rib and decide to sit out Sunday.
Dean De St.Croix on Ken Rosevear's Geoff Monty Special replica.  Bill Murphy photo
 So Ken asked me and Tim Joyce if we'd like to race his bike.  I entered the Warwick Cup, a race for Pre-65 500 British bikes, named after Doug Warwick, one of the founding members of the VRRA and a Velocette devotee.  Tim entered the bike in P1-350.
We had one round of practice Sun. morning and both bikes felt good, though very different.  The Arter Matchless has considerably slower steering and I found that I had to initiate my turn in earlier on it.
For some reason, despite my late entry, I was gridded on the front row of the P2-HW.  I got a good start, but was soon swamped by the bigger, newer bikes.  Again, I found myself chasing Doug Forbes on his 750 BMW and finished just behind him and ahead of Mark Morrison on his 550 Honda four, 7th is class, 9th overall.
On the Arter Matchless G-50 in turn #1? Bill Murphy photo
The Warwick Cup followed immediately and I finished 3rd on Ken's sweet bike behind the 500 twins of Roger McHardy, Paul Brubaker on the Norton and Dave Cote on the Triton.
Me on Ken's 350 Goldstar in turn #1?  Bill Murphy photo
My final race was the P3-Lightweight and again I was gridded on the front row and again I was swamped by the newer, bigger bikes. I was dicing at maybe the front of the 2nd third of the field when, just after the half way flag I felt the motor slow, then start to seize as I went through turn #2.  I clutched it and pulled off.  By the time we got it back to the pits, the motor would turn over, but with no compression and subsequent examination revealed a piston eaten away.
So, while we had machine problems, overall the event was a great success, with a big entry and lots of spectators.  I had been concerned that with a big entry, quite a few of whom weren't familiar with Mosport, that there would be a lot of red flags, delays and shortened races.  In other words, that the event would be spoiled by it's success.  And, there were a few red flags and a big weather challenge Saturday, but the event was very well run and all the races went their full length Sunday.
Between working on the bikes, catching up with friends and well wishers, being interviewed and photographed, I found that I didn't end up taking many photos.  There was an excellent display of significant race bikes with everything from Giancarlo Fallapa's 1990 Ducati 888 to a early 30's Sunbeam, with a NSU Sport Max, F-3 Ducati single, TD1C Yamaha among many others in between. I was particularly impressed with Ken Rosevear's fabulous restoration of the TR 500 Suzuki with which Jim Allen won a Canadian Championship, with Ken the tuner.
Ken Rosevear's TR500 Suzukis as race by Jim Allen.  Ken finish the restoration the day before the event.  Ron Agnello photo

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

VRRA's Summer Classic

My third race weekend on the trot was the VRRA's Summer Classic at Calabogie M/S Park south west of Ottawa.  I first raced at Calabogie last Sept. and thought it was fabulous.  3.16 miles long with 20 turns, and it seems that all of them are blind, off camber and decreasing radius.  It's a very challenging track.  They held a two hour endurance race on Fri. and Francis McDermott had gotten in touch and asked if I wanted to do this race with him on his TT-1 Ducati.
While this violated my policy of racing older and slower bikes as I slide into my golden years, I thought it would be an excellent way to learn the subtleties of the track, and nostalgic as I spent a good deal of time on TT-1 & 2 Ducatis back in the day.  But, this bike was quite a bit up spec. from anything that I ever rode.  The lower end of the motor was actually  from a Monster, so was 6 speed and dry clutch, but it had the air cooled top end and measured 840cc.  It has 43mm Showa forks and 320mm rotors with 17" wheels and Pirelli slicks.
The race included P-3, which runs up to '82, and P-4, which runs up to '89. Francis' bike is considered P-3 Middleweight which runs in the Endurance Middleweight class with P-3 HW, and P-4 F2 and F3, the smaller of the P-4 classes.
I got in a couple of practice sessions before the race and found the bike easy to ride, though I was definitely sneaking up on it.  While I tend to be a single cylinder guy, if you're going to have two, the 90 degree layout is the way to go.  This motor was marvelous--torquey and with a broad power band and smooth. Even though we didn't use tire warmer, the tires seem to grip well immediately.  The bike steered very nicely.  My main problem was with the brakes.  I'm used to grabbing a handful with the vintage drum brakes, and I couldn't seem to retrain myself to use one finger.  Therefore I had trouble being smooth on the brakes, especially blipping the throttle on downshifts.
Fran's brother Gerry and Don Morse were the main pit crew with a dirt riding buddy of Fran's, Scott Ramsey helping during the actual race.  We never got a really accurate fuel consumption test and neither Fran or I were sure we were up to a full hour stint, so we went with two half hour sessions each.  Fran started and after about 12 laps, I took over.  Being able to do lap after lap on such a long and challenging course is a joy and very instructive.  Gradually, I found I was using a taller gear in various corners.  Accelerating out of the tight decreasing radius turn #8 up over a rise and the right kink of #9A, I started to slide and wondered if the rear tire was going away, but eventually decided that, no, it was just the bike getting light over the rise and the rear tire spinning up a bit under hard acceleration, something I'm not used to on the puny vintage stuff I'm usually riding.
Bill Murphy photo
I had no trouble doing my12 or so laps and might have been able to do a full hour but, as it turned out, fuel consumption would have be iffy.  There was a little drama after Fran was called in from his second stint.  As I was putting on my glassses after putting on my helmet, I noticed the right lens was loose and about to fall out.  The screw had come out of the ear piece.  Scott had to run and get safety wire and pliers and Don got the glasses wired up just as Fran pulled into the pits.  I had a shorter second run as the race ended up being reduce by about 10 minutes as we had run over the 5p deadline.  We ended up 6th of the 11 Middleweights and 8th over all with two Heavyweights ahead of us.  Good fun and very useful for learning the course.
Bill Murphy photo
In the few days between the AHRMA NJMP race and leaving for Calabogie, I did some rudimentary body work, mounted a new windscreen, mounted a muffler and straightened and welded the broken handlebar, but didn't get a chance to install it.  So Friday, between practice sessions, I pulled the top yoke off and installed the original clip-on and changed the gearing.
a new windscreen, repaired fairing, and left clip-on
Sat. there was just one round of practice and I got 4 laps in on my ERTT.  After getting somewhat used to the speed of the 840 Ducati, things were almost in slow motion on the Sprint and it felt like I had time to get it right.
I had to add a silencer for Calabogie which has a strict noise limit

My first race was the P1 Open and P1 350 qualifying heat.  On the warmup lap, I saw one of the silencers falloff the expansion chamber on the bike that Chris Hurst was racing.  This is a sort of tribute bike that Allan Lylloff built, and is sort of a replica of the Yamaha that Mike Duff rode at Daytona in 1967.  He started with a frame that he believes is RD 56 and installed a hot rodded YR1 350 motor.
Alan Lyloff's RD56/YR-1
 I quickly got in the lead of the 350s and got by a couple of Open bikes, but at the end of the 1st lap, Andy Dornellas came by on his CB350 Honda on the brakes into turn #18.  I got him back on the front straight and this pattern repeated itself on the next lap.  Chris Hurst came by on the Yamaha and the lack of one silencer didn't seem to be hurting it much.
I believe this is a Robinson front brake on the Lyloff Yamaha
Paul Brubaker was leading overall on Rodger McHardy 500 Norton twin, and Chris and  I went back and forth with Doug Forbes on his 750 BMW.  Then, Peter Hurst, Chris' older brother came by on his 750 Norton Atlas based racer.  Evidently, when he went to the pre-grid, it was pointed out to him that he had forgotten his transponder and by the time that he got to his pit and returned to the pre-grid, we had left and he had to start from the pit lane after we all had started the race.  Chris dropped back with what he thought was running out of fuel.  Peter went on to win the overall, with Paul 2nd and Doug 3rd.  Andy fell off in turn #19 on the last lap making a big effort to get back by me, so I was 1st in class, 4th overall.  Andy banged up his ankle and, while he raced his RS 125 Honda (and did well) the next day, he didn't repair his P1 bike and didn't start that final the next day.
my rudimentary bodywork didn't include repainting the fairing
My next race was my 'bump-up' class, P2 lightweight, with P1 200 and Pre-50 gridded behind us.  Tim Voyer led early, but I reeled him in and we got into a real dogfight.  The bikes were quite evenly matched and we each passed the other on straights.  On the last lap, in the last corner, Tim high sided trying to to get a good drive to draft me to the finish line.  His bike wasn't too bad, but his hand was very swollen and he didn't race the next day.
Saturday evening was a dinner open to all and, after chatting with Andy, a couple sat down next to me and the woman and I started chatting.  It took me a while to realize that I was talking with Kathleen Coburn.  I was a big fan of Kathleen and her traveling partner and fellow racer, Toni Sharpless, when they were racing in the AMA Superbike series in the 80's.  They both had great style and pluck.  Kathleen was road racing for the first time in 25 years and doing it on the first bike that she had road raced, a '82 RD350LC Yamaha.
Kathleen Coburn's original road racer, an '82 RD 350 LC
But, it wasn't like she hadn't ridden a bike in 25 years.  She, her husband Jon and their two daughters are avid dirt bike riders and ride all the time on their farm and go down to West Virginia and ride for a month.  Jon was clearly tempted by road racing and Kathleen was encouraging him to do a track day.  I watched Kathleen race Sunday and she seemed to be gridded with bigger bikes, but she told me that she was determined to be 'like a horse fly', annoying those bigger bikes in the corners.  And, she did just that, looking great, really tucked in.
Sunday I just did two laps of practice to check that everything was still alright.  In the P1 Open/P1-350 race, my two main competitor in class didn't start, Andy with his CB350 banged up and Chris figuring out that the stuttering he interpreted as running out of gas was actually the gearbox jumping out of gear.  So, I led the class from the start and slowly reeled in Doug Forbes on his BMW and was able to make the pass stick, finishing 1st in class, 3rd overall behind Peter Hurst on his Atlas and Paul Brubaker on Rodger McHardy's 500 Dominator.
Again, in the P2 LW, my main competitor didn't start, Tim Voyer nursing a very swollen wrist and hand.  I led from flag to flag and had the pleasure of a completely unobstructed track to try to make that perfect lap.
So ended three back to back to back weekends, racing in three different organizations with different rules and procedures, traveling 2350 miles, starting 12 races with my Sprint and winning my class in 12 races (four overall 1sts, three O.A 2nds, three O.A 3rds, and two O.A. 4ths), suffering one crash, and having a great time at all three events.
Kat Collins and Tim Joyce with the outfit
A chain drive BMW boxer
Drive detail
rocker cover bling

a Yamaha 550 Vision; not your typical race bike