Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Saturday, May 8, 2021
Friday, May 7, 2021
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Monday, March 29, 2021
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
My 2021 racing season kicked off with the traditional February Roebling Road Raceway date. I only brought my 250cc CRTT HD Sprint and my 350 wasn't ready. The 250 had a pretty extensive rebuild over the winter: new crankpin and big end bearing, new main bearings, new gearbox, new cylinder bore, new rings, new valves and new exhaust seat and guide. And a new rear tire.
|My '67 CRTT H-D Sprint as it arrived|
So I signed up for Fri. afternoon practice. I rained Friday morning and, while it had pretty much stopped raining by the time I got on the track, the track was fully wet and I was very cautious. By my 2nd practice the track was drying, but there were plenty of damp patches and the odd puddle. The motor started easily, sounded fine and accelerated fairly well, but didn't seem to want to rev and I wasn't pulling the gearing that I had in the past, so I dropped a tooth on the gearbox sprocket.
Saturday morning was quite cold with temps in the low 30's and I took it very steady. By now the sun was shining brightly and it had warmed up a bit. I went out for the 2nd practice and on my out lap when I cracked the throttle in turn #3, the rear tire broke loose and I low sided. I slid on my ass on the track then into the dirt without tumbling, but I did wear right through my leather and got a raspberry of my left cheek.
|Wore right through my leathers. Darleen Drehmel photo|
The bike wasn't too bad, but the fairing was pretty smashed up and dirt was packed everywhere. It seems like I'm making the rookie, cold tire turn #3 crash an annual tradition as I did it last year, though then I tucked the front.
|After the crash. Kenny Cummings is very disappointed in his 'dad'. Courtney A. Black photo|
I abandoned the fairing and mounted number plates. Now I have an air filter on the carb, so I didn't have to take the head off to clean out the dirt as I did last year.
|mounting number plates with Dr. Dan Levine. Courtney A. Black photo|
I installed a new CO2 cartridge in my inflatable vest. I got the bike re-teched and was able to do a scrub lap in race #2, and everything seemed OK for race #3, my bump-up race, 350GP with 350 Sportsman gridded behind us in one wave.
|heading out for a 'scrub lap' Darleen Drehmel photo|
As soon as I started the warm-up lap, the motor started cutting out intermittently. I pulled in pit lane and saw that one of the leads had pulled off the coil. I shoved it back on and got a push start and started the race from the pit lane after everyone got rolling. Three of the 350GP and three of the 350 Sportsman bikes started pulling away. After a couple of laps, I saw I was catching Colton Roberts riding his Dad's TD2b Yamaha. Jason Roberts had crashed in practice when an oil line failed on his Aermacchi and oiled the rear tire. He broke three ribs and offered his Yamaha to his son. Colton had never turned a wheel on this bike before the start of the race and he was clearly figuring out how to ride it. I was able to pass him in several corners and he would blow by me on the straights. By the last lap, Colton had gained enough confidence in how the bike was going to act that I was unable to pass him and he finished 0.9 seconds ahead of me. So I was 4th in class and 7th overall.
The 250GP class was in race #11 gridded behind Sound of Singles 3 in the first wave and Vintage Superbike Lightweight in the second wave.
|On the front row of the 250GP grid, behind the VSL grid, in the 2nd wave. Darleen Drehmel photo|
I got ahead of a few of the VSL bikes at the start and soon caught some of the SOS3 bikes. SOS3 may have the greatest range of speed of any class. The first two in that class lapped me (and all but 7 of the 30 starters)on what were effectively Moto3 bikes--modern watercooled, fuel injected 250 singles in full race chassis. I passed 6 of the SOS3 bike and two of the VSL bikes for 1st in class and 17th overall.
Sunday morning was even colder with frost everywhere. There was only one round of practice and I managed to complete 5 laps without crashing. I still wasn't pulling the gearing, so I added two teeth to the rear sprocket. Then, Art Kowitz told me that he was taking his X-6 Suzuki to the Hall brother's mobile dyno to sort it. I didn't realize that it was there, and I followed Art down and after he made a run, we put my Sprint on. Rob Hall was able to alter the ignition timing while Jake kept the bike running. Rob advanced the timing 2-3 times to optimum and noted that the fuel/air mixture was a little rich, so I went down one jet size.
Sunday's 350GP/Sportman race went much like Saturday's except Jason Roberts wasn't riding his dad's TD2b. I had a fairly lonely ride after the first 5 pulled away and ended up 3rd in class and 6th overall. My best lap was more than 0.8 seconds slower that Sat. without the encouragement of chasing Jason and maybe his draft, too.
There were a couple of crashes in close succession around race #7 that required both the ambulances to transport riders, which shut down racing until one returned. After racing resumed, there was another red flag delay so, by the time race #11 came up, the race was shortened from 8 laps to 6. Again, I led the 250GP class from the start. I passed three of the VSL bikes and two of the SOS3 bikes to finish 1st in class and 17th overall. I was only lapped by the leader of the SOS3 class (as were the next 16 bikes). What I didn't realize until after the race was that I finished just 0.315 seconds ahead of Don Hollingsworth on his 250 Sprint. I had a slightly faster fastest lap than Don, but mine was on the 3rd lap and his was on the last. Clearly, I was goofing off and he was smelling blood. Would I have been able to respond if the race had gone the full 8 laps?
My fasted lap of the weekend last year on the same bike (also without a fairing) was more that 3.3 seconds faster then my fastest lap of the weekend this year. I'm willing to accept that some of that is because I'm a broken old man (or rather more broken, older man), but I was definitely pulling more revs with taller gearing last year. Why is mystery that I'm still investigating.
|Brian Larrabure's Seeley G-50. Brian unfortunately had a serious crash Sun. on another bike and broke his leg and clavicle|
|Local Rick Panettieri always brings an interesting and immaculate bike, this time a Laverda Jota|
|Stu Carter's ex-Ginger Molloy Bultaco|
|The Bultaco seat warning|
Saturday, February 13, 2021
I recently ran across two races that Skip Aksland had competed in of which I wasn't aware on two successive days. I saw a photo of the start of the Formula 750 race at Mosport Park in Canada, 17 Sept., 1978 and there was Aksland on the front row with Johnny Cecotto, Yvon Duhamel, Kenny Roberts and Mike Baldwin.
|Photo courtesy of CSBK/PMP|
I checked back, I saw that I had included Skip's 4th overall (5th in the first leg, 4th in the second) in the text, but had left it out of the list. But, in researching this, I learned that Aksland had raced the previous weekend (10 Sept.) at the F-750 race at Laguna Seca, which I thought he missed because of injuries from his crash at Sears Point in July. Laguna may have been his first race back after that crash. In th first 100km leg, Skip finished 2nd to Roberts and ahead of Steve Baker, Gene Romero and Mike Baldwin. In the second leg, he made only two laps before pulling into the pits with a "broken coil". Two weeks after Mosport, Skip was 8th in the San Jose Mile and a week later 11th in the Ascot Half Mile, both on a XR H-D. Then, the next weekend (7-8 Oct., '78), Skip finished 8th overall in the AGV Cup of Nations at Imola, Italy.
Then I stumbled across an old post on the WERA forum by Larry Lawrence. He had come across an old floppy disc that he had made on the history of the WERA GNF. I was surprised to see that in 1978, Skip had raced in that year's GNF at Texas World Speedway. This was three weeks after racing at Imola, 28 Oct. In the F-1 heat race on Sat., Lawrence says the Aksland and Freddie Spencer 'tangled' and both went down. Cycle News says they both hit oil and crashed virtually simultaneously on the last lap while dicing for the lead. Lawrence says Aksland got a 'badly injured hand'. Cycle News says both were unhurt other than Aksland's sprained thumb. Evidently it was bad enough that Aksland didn't start the next day's final. Mike Baldwin arrived after the heat races Sat., and started the final Sun., from the back of the grid and went through to win over Spencer and Aldana.
Quite a busy and varied two months for Skip, racing a four stroke V-twin on the dirt and an inline two stroke four on the asphalt, in three different countries and two continents.
Sunday, January 31, 2021
I've been reading "Chris Carter at Large, Stories from a lifetime in motorcycle racing" which is a collection of anecdotes about races and racers. Carter writes of the Swiss racer Bruno Kneubuhler "He was good, too. Second in both the 50cc and 125cc world championship, and he rode in the 250cc, 350cc and 500cc championships at various times, scoring podiums in all classes, I think. Possibly a unique achievement." I found this quite amazing and started researching if it was in fact true. Bruno Kneubuler's name was vaguely familiar, but I didn't know any of his details. A quick Google search confirmed that he had been on the podium in every solo class, had won five GPs, and finished 2nd in the '73 Spanish GP in the 50, 250 and 500 races. But, what I found even more impressive was that he raced in the World Championship GPs from 1972 when he was 26 years old through 1989 when he was 43 and scored points every year except '87 racing a Honda in the 500cc class. Bruno started racing in 1969 and got 2nd place in his first competition, a hillclimb. In 1970 he won the Swiss Senior title. In 1971, he rode as many International races as he could get starts for. In 1972, he started racing in the GPs in the 350 and 500 classes on Yamahas, was 4th at his first GP in the 500, third behind Ago and Pagani on the works MVs at Assen and third again at Brno, and won the 350 race at the last GP of the season in Spain by 42 seconds. This made him third in the 500 class for the season and 6th in the 350 class in his rookie season. For some reason, I associated his name with the Imola 200 Ducatis. Sure enough, he rode one of the works bikes in '73. '72 was the first year of the Imola 200 and Paul Smart put Ducati on the map by winning over his teammate Bruno Spaggiari. Apparently, the 350 Yamaha wasn't allowed in '72, but was in '73 and Jarno Saarinen, fresh from his win in the Daytona 200, dominated the event. Ducati had developed their 750 V-Twin considerably with a shorter stroke, and reduced valve angle that allowed a shorter wheelbase. Smart rode a Suzuki in '73, and Spaggiari had Mick Grant and Bruno Kneubuhler as teammates on the works Ducatis. Grant fried a clutch at the start and retired and the two Brunos chased Saarinen, after Yvon duHamel and Art Baumann on H2Rs dropped out. Kneubuhler was in 2nd place near the end of the first 100 mile leg when he crashed after turning the fastest lap of the race.
|At Imola on the works Ducati in 1973|
Here's a link to a documentary of the race: https://www.bpvideolibrary.com/record/746
In June of 1977, Bruno crashed at an International in Holland and badly fractured his left ankle and the surgery was botched and it got infected. He was flown to Zurich and, after three months and more surgery, his ankle was fused. This not only ended his season and but compromised his push starts when he resumed racing in '78 on a RG 500 Suzuki, and he only scored 2 points all year. So, in '79 he switched to a 125 MBA, but that season was ruined by a fall at Assen where he broke both wrist. He came back strong the next year with the MBA with three podiums and 4th in the 125 championship.
|On the 125 MBA at Assen in 1980|
For 1981 Bruno raced a 250 Pinfold Rotax that wasn't very successful. He only scored points in two GPs. Fron Motocourse 1981-82: "Schlachter passed Bruno Kneubuhler on lap ten as the Swiss dropped down the field. It was yet another disappointment for Bruno who struggled all year to make his Pinfold-framed Rotax competitive and had qualified fourth only to have the engine run flat in the race." Here's a video of the earlier race at Hockenheim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI8eIf55R2g
|#33 is Bruno at Monza in '81|
It was back to the 125s with an MBA in '82 and in '83 he had perhaps his best year finishing 2nd overall in the 125 World Championship with two wins, a 2nd and a 3rd, and scoring points in 8 of the 11 GPs he contested at the age of 37. Bruno stayed with the 125s through 1986, but in 1987 he raced a 500 Honda, presumably a RS500 three cylinder. This was probably prompted by the FIM changing GPs start from push to clutch. '87 was the first year that Bruno didn't score any World Championship points since 1972 but, keep in mind that '87 was the last year that points were awarded only 1st through 10th and the next year they went to 1st through 15th, which is still used today. And, Bruno was racing against Gardner, Mamola, Lawson and Schwantz on works bikes. It only got worse with the addition of Rainey in '88 and Doohan in '89, but Bruno did score points both those years.
|On the RS 500 Honda|
Bruno has participated in Classic racing in more recent years and operates riding school in Switzerland.
So, from 50cc Kreidler to 750 Ducati to RS 500 Honda, Kneubuhler was superbly versatile.
But, somewhere in my research, I saw a reference to seven riders being 'classified' in all five solo classes: Ralph Bryans, Tommy Robb, Luigi Taveri, Stuart Graham, Dave Simmons, Bruno Kneubuhler, and Alberto Pagani. It wasn't totally clear what 'classified' meant, but I assume it meant scored points. Further research revealed that Kneubuhler's podiums in all solo classed wasn't a unique achievement. Tommy Robb won 125, 250 and 350 races and got 3rds in 50 and 500 GPs. Stuart Graham may have also been on the podium of all five solo classes as he won 50 and 125 GPs and was 2nd in 250 and 500 GPs, but I haven't been able to find results of all his 350 GPs, though think that it's probably unlikely that he made the podium in one. Bryans, Robb, Taveri, Graham, and Simmons all raced against each other in the mid to late '60s and Kneubuhler and Pagani were just a little later in the early 70's, but Kneubuhler carried on and was 5th in the 125 World Championship in 1986 riding an MBA, then spent his last three years in the GPs racing the 500 Honda. It was a different time. Much was made of Freddie Spencer winning both the 250 and 500 World Championships in 1985 and I don't think anyone has even tried running more that one class since then, even Kneubuhler who last raced more that one class in a season in 1977. The 350 class was eliminated after 1982 and the 50 class was replaced by the 80cc class in 1984 and ran through 1989, when it too was eliminated.