Friday, February 28, 2020

Roebling Road 2020

For the second race of the season, I drove down to Roebling Road Raceway in Bloomingdale, Ga., with my CRTT and ERTT Sprints.  This would be the first run on the CRTT since I discovered that the crankcase was cracked after racing it at NJMP (and winning both 250GP races) Memorial Day weekend of last year.  I replaced the crankcase with '67 SS road bike cases, which had to be modified for the bigger diameter sleeve gear, bearing and seal on the transmission output.  Bill Himmelsbach did the shimming and assembly and when I took it to my secret test site, it fired right up and had no leaks or issues.

I arrived Fri. afternoon after driving through heavy snow in Va. and N.C. Thurs. night.  I got my pit setup and the bikes through scrutineering.  It got very cold that night and there was frost everywhere in the morning.  I took it very easy in practice, but gradually worked up a little speed.  The CRTT wasn't running correctly, hesitating and cutting out.  I wondered if it was running lean because of the cold dense air, so went to put in a larger main jet.  But, I found the main jet laying in the jet holder, so just screwed it back into the carb tightly.  The motor ran much better in the second practice.  The ERTT ran well and the gearing seemed perfect.
Alex McLean is on the pole for the 350GP race to my left out of the photo.  photo by Darleen Dremel

The 350GP race was my first, with 350 Sportsman gridded behind us.  I got a good start and went straight in the lead.  On the 2nd lap, Alex McLean drafted by me toward the end of the straight.  On the third lap, Kevin Dinsmoor came by the both of us on his Sportsman bike, but perhaps braked a little early into turn #1 and balked Alex a bit and I went under the both of them and back in the lead.  After a couple of laps, Alex drafted by me again near the end of the straight.  He seemed to have a little motor on me and I could stay in his draft, but couldn't pass him.  On the last lap, we came up on a backmarker going into Turn #4 and I got by him, but Alex didn't.  I was thinking that I had a shot at the win, as Alex had only drafted passed me well after the Start/finish line, but he was right on my tail and timed the draft perfectly and beat me by 0.034 seconds.  It was a very fun race.
I congratulate Alex McLean after a great race.  Darleen Dremel photo

The 250GP class was gridded in the second wave behind 500 Premiere, Formula 500, and 500 Sportsman.  Again, I got a good start and went straight into the lead.  I won the 250GP class by more than 30 seconds and passed 15 of 28 starters to finish 13th overall with the 12th fastest lap.  What I didn't realize was that my arch nemesis and good friend Jack Parker had crashed his DT1 Yamaha on the warmup lap.  Things would be different Sun.
I wait to start my CRTT before Saturday's race.  Darleen Dremel photo

While it was slightly warmer Sun. morning, there was still frost about when I arrived at the track.  I took the CRTT out in practice gingerly the first lap, but then tried to go too fast too soon and tucked the front end in turn #3 and tumbled for a while.  The knuckle on my left little finger, my left forearm, and left hip got minor abrasions, but nothing serious.  The bike wasn't too bad, but the clutch lever was broken, the tach cable broken, the transponder had got ripped off the bike (but was recovered) and the carb was full of dirt.  When I took the carb off, I saw that there was dirt down the port and the intake valve was slightly open with a grain of sand sitting on the valve seat.  So the cylinder head had to come off if I was going to race the bike.  Dick Miles started to help, then Erik Green happened by and sprung into action.  When we took the head off, the Helicoil for one of the exhaust bolt came out.  Then Al Hollingsworth came by and he had a Helicoil kit and went and fetched it.  Erik decided that the intake valve had to come out as it wasn't sealing.  I pulled out my valve spring compressor, lapping compound and suction stick.  But, AHRMA had accelerated the scheduled for Sun., and there were three races before lunch, the second being the 350GP.  I went off to race while the crew continued to work on the 250.  I got a good start, but Alex soon came by.   I went a little slower than Sat., and he slowly pulled away and won by over 5 seconds with me 2nd overall.
Putting the CRTT in gear to pull it back on compression.  Darleen Dremel photo

Fortunately, the 250GP was after lunch and we worked straight through.  At some point, Jim Jowers came over and told Erik that he had a flat tire on his sidecar and he went off to deal with that, as the sidecar race was immediately after the 250GP race, which was first after lunch.  For some reason, with the new Helicoil in the head, a longer bolt was needed and Al went off to find one.  When I turned the crank to get the piston at TDC, it lifted the cylinder off the crankcase and dirt fell down in the joint, so we had to pull the cylinder well up to clean and reseal it. 
Al Hollingsworth putting the head back on the motor.  Dave Hollingsworth photo.

We removed the tach cable, but the tach drive was still binding, so we removed that, too.  The front mudguard was cracked and rubbing on the tire, so when we pulled the bike down off the bench, Dick straightened the forks which were tweaked and the mudguard cleared.  We fired up the motor just as they were making 3rd call, and I rode straight down to pit road and onto the track without stopping.  I took a pretty tentative warmup lap and gave the motor a good look on the grid and didn't see any leaks.   Again, I launched straight into the lead, but on the 2nd lap Jack Parker drafted by.  But, I could draft by him if I got on his tail on the straight.  We went back and forth and I was leading when I took the white flag starting the last lap.
Leading Jack Parker at the white flag.  Dave Hollingsworth photo

I was getting a good draft behind Mark William's H1 Kawasaki when, near the end of the straight the motor lost power and I pulled in the clutch and coasted to a stop at turn #2.  It turned out that the sparkplug lead and fallen off, which is a lot better than a rod through the case.  And, I was still scored as 2nd even though I didn't finish the last lap.  I guess that Chris Spargo, the overall leader on his F-500 Yamaha had lapped everyone behind me, so I did my 7 laps before anyone else in the 250 class.  And, if the plug lead hadn't fallen off, neither Jack or I was sure who would have won.  So, it was an exciting, successful, fun weekend despite the crash in the middle.  Many thanks to Erik and Henry Green, Al Hollingsworth, Dan Levine, and Dick Miles.

Dick Miles imparts some wisdom to me.  Darleen Dremel photo
I tell Dr. Dan Levine how it is.  Darleen Dremel photo.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Laguna Seca 2020

I've raced at Laguna Seca on seven different occasions going back to 1982 (which was a shorter circuit then without the current turns #3, #4, and #5).  The last time I raced there was 1989.  The last time I rode there was 2008, when I did a Moto Giro based in Monterey and we got to do a lap of the circuit, me on my '53 250 Airone Sport (I crashed).
In Fri. practice, I was second out in my group and first out, Brian Larrabure, crashed on the pit out road before he even got on the circuit.  This freaked me out, as it didn't look like he was going fast, and I slowed way down.  I started gingerly on the circuit and when I got to turn #5, I saw the red flag.  So, I threw my hand up and putted slowing ahead.  Even at this pace, I blew the corkscrew, forgetting how tight it was and ended up on the rumble strip going down the right.  In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that I did my first lap of the circuit in almost 12 years under the red flag.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  But, everything went well for my four rounds of practice in beautiful weather.
I had entered 350GP and 'bumped-up' to 500 Premiere with my 350 Sprint.  I noticed in practice that my times were better than Andrew Mauk on Keith Leighty's 450 Honda, one of my competitors in 500 premiere, but I didn't put too much stock in that as it was Andrew's first time at Laguna.  The sunshine ended around 4:30p when the fog rolled in and the last two practice groups didn't get their last round of practice.
The fog was very slow to lift Sat., and there ended up being no practice and we went straight to racing after lunch.  My first race was the 500 Premiere.  We were in the second wave behind the first wave of Sound of Thunder 3 (which consists on SV650s and 750 Ducatis and such).  Behind us in the 2nd wave was Formula 500, and 500 Sportsman, with Lightweight Novice Production in the third wave, 42 entrants in total.  Brian Larrabure, on his Minovation Seeley G-50, now without a windscreen after his Fri. crash, and Andrew Mauk came by me almost immediately and gradually pulled away.  Mark Morrow on his two stroke Yamaha came by the three of us to win the F-500 class and Ari Henning, on his 350 Sportsman Honda, finished 0.001 seconds behind me to win his class.  I was 11th overall.
The 350GP followed after two races and we were gridded in front of 350 Sportsman in one wave.  I got the holeshot, but Ari Henning came by before we got to turn #2 and pulled away, but no other bikes challenged me.  I finished more than 16 seconds behind Ari, but more than 30 seconds ahead of my teammate Walt Fulton III, who was second in class, third overall.  My best lap was more than a second quicker than in the 500 race.
Sunday was sunny, but windy.  We did get one round of practice in and I just did two laps to make sure everything was alright and get my mind right.  But, all the 8 lap races were shortened to 6 laps as they had run out of time on Sat.  In the 500 Premiere, again I was first off the line and again Brian and Andrew came by me, but this time I was able to hang with them.  On the second lap, Brian was leading and I was second when he seemed to check up early in turn #6 and being right on top of him, I stuffed it inside him and there was light contact.  He immediately shot off the track, but it seemed he decided to rather than it was out of his control.  In subsequent laps, I saw him standing with his bike at the barrier on the outside of the turn.  Had I damaged his bike when we touched?  No time to think about that now as Andrew was all over me.  On the last lap, I was leading when Andrew stuffed inside of me in turn #6 and again there was light contact.  I lost my drive a bit and Andrew pulled ahead up through the Corkscrew.  There was traffic ahead and I was able to get ahead and win the race.  What I didn't realize was that one cylinder of Andrew's twin quit and that's why I got by him.  Brian's drive belt had broken, probably the result of his Fri. crash and getting gravel in it, and that's why he suddenly slowed.  Mark Morrow and Ari Henning didn't start the race.  Andrew's fastest lap was about 1/2 second faster than mine.
In Sunday's 350GP it was pretty much a repeat of Sat., with me getting the jump and Ari coming by early and pulling away.  I only finished 1.5 seconds behind Ari as he had a problem and slowed towards the end.
One of the highlights of the weekend was getting to spend time with Ari Henning and Zack Courts.  I raced with both of their dads in the '90s and they both grew up at the track.  Ari's dad Todd came to Laguna to see his son race and everyone was happy to see him.  Ari and Zack are best of friends and both superb racers.  Zack won Sound of Thunder 2 and Sound of Singles 1 riding a Kramer for the North American distributor.  Years ago, Ari got a job at Motorcyclist Magazine and  brought Zack there.  In addition to both writing for the magazine, they did very creative and funny videos.  They left Motorcyclist and went to Motor Trend when it started doing online videos.  Now that has ended, but they have plenty of projects in the works.  I was very flattered that Zack took the time to photograph me at various places around the circuit.
all photos by Zack Courts.