2017 WERA Grand National Finals at Barber Motorsports Park

The end of the season finale was again held at the “finest campus we got to race at”, Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama. November 2nd was the latest I’d ever seen a GNF held and the weather was perfect. Mid 70s and totally overcast. No sweat, no squinting, and no place like Barber to race.

The turnout had been light on this Thursday race day. Doug Bowie was out of the GP350 with recent eye surgery. That left Jerry Duke, David Hurst, and myself to battle for the GP350 title. David Rutherford was at the GNF as the points leader in the GP500. David confidently let all of us know that we should probably just give our bikes a rest rather than making him work for his title. David has been sporting the number 1 plate on his BSA 500 single for some time now. Jerry, David Hurst and I thought it would look good on our bikes as well…

Without a rider’s meeting as the vintage racers have heard the drill many times over, we had lunch after morning practice, stood for the national anthem, and continued onto the racing for the day. Race 4 was the GP500 where the 350 Honda gang joined David Rutherford with this year’s new entrant on his 350 Ducati, Mr. Jerry Duke.  The warm up lap led the small pack of racers to the grid. We took our positions and stared at Ed Bargy, the race marshal for the GNF.

Ed directed the number board be switched from 3 to 2… From over the number man’s head it was slowly brought down to mid height, flipped over to the 1 board, switch to the sideways position… and low and behold,  Jerry Duke just burst down the track followed by the green flag from Ed Bargy. Jerry had just blown his start. All the racers that saw this knew that Jerry would receive the meatball flag associated with his race number soon. This was to be Jerry’s indication that he needed to report to pit row for a stop and go. As close as Jerry and I had raced this season, there was no way he was going to be able to catch up and pass me before the end of the 8 lap race.

Congratulations Jerry, and welcome to Team Old & Oily. Having received your meatball flag was your final initiation to the ever growing vintage race team.

This left me chasing David Rutherford on my own as David and I pulled away from the rest of the racers. I led David through turns one, two and three and he passed me as we approached Charlotte’s web. However, David braked early and I continued into the web before braking and leaning left into the off camber turn. David passed me as we headed towards the museum turn and I gave chase.

Without Jerry to battle with, my thoughts focused on the fact that this race was, unless David’s BSA grenaded, was going to be a warm up race for the GP350 battle. I kept David in my sights for the first half of the race. John Cook was behind me recording what was supposed to be a neck and neck race with Jerry and I chasing David. As that was not the case, all I had to look forward to was the 350GP, race 7. I gave a good show until around lap 5 or 6 and John took that as his  cue to pass me and let his uncontested motor rip the track up for a while. The BSA behaved as it was supposed to and David pulled away for the win. His number 1 plate will stay in place yet another year.

There was a great effort exerted at the end of the race by both David Hurst and myself. Seeing DH off in the distance after receiving the white flag, indicating the last lap of the race. Closing on David as we approached the museum turn, I continued to get closer and closer to lapping him. We went through the first set of zig zags at a distance. The second set was much closer. Going through the big sweeping final turn set, I dropped the last of the space between us. The two of us went through the final turn with me at a higher velocity. After passing David, I tucked down behind the camera, arms tight in, and raced toward the finish line. As the line drew near, David burst back onto the scene and had his DS7 revving to produce a great burst of power passing me and almost immediately  crossing the finish line. The caption of the optimum still frame from the video had an invisible caption that read “Oh no you don’t!”.  David is da man!

WERA 2017 350GP Race Video

Back at the pits, Jerry admitted, with his tail between his legs, that he thought the flagging had a level of inconsistency. And at the same time had to admit he was the only one that jumped the gun.

After a little ignition tweaking, I had to run to the men’s room as second call was being announced for the 350GP race. Running back, I was the last one in the pits for our race class. Trying to kick start the bike didn’t create any affect. Pushing the bike and taking advantage of the downhill toward pit out to bump start the bike to no avail.  I pulled up against the concrete wall of the race tower, took off my helmet and found the one connection that had not been made and connected it. This caused a loss of time. I got to pit out on the 3 board and was directed directly to my grid position as it was too late for a warm up lap.

I started up the camera and put it into record as the rest of the racers came around the track and rolled into their grid positions.  John Cook was in front of us as the only racer in the Vintage 1 class present, so again, he was out for some good footage.

The number board went to 2, flipped over to 1, flipped sideways, and… nobody moved until the green flag ripped through the air. Jerry got a great start and led through turn 1, 2, and 3, while racing towards Charlotte’s web. By the time we got to the museum turn, it appeared the pack was pulling away. However, by the time we flew past Norton Hill, the leaders were all tightly packed in the last turn set with me recording their traversion towards the start/finish line.

I did find myself comforted by the fact that with enough turns on the track, I could catch up with the pack that would again pull away on the straight portions of track. It’s definitely time for some motor refreshing this winter.

Racing through turn 1, not at race speed, I gained on the pack, passed John through turn 2 and closed on Jerry, the leader of our class. Playing Jerry’s wingman climbing out of the mini gravity cavity and heading toward Charlotte’s Web, Jerry showed is superior pull away power. Jerry seems to have a handle on the off camber turn to the left known as Charlotte’s Web so I barely gained on him at all. Just like most of the race, the long straight had Jerry and Dick Gruhn pulling away from me as we headed back to the museum turn. Finishing that turn, I was back on their tail and closing… until the next straight.

Dick had crashed in the Web causing a red flag in the very first race of the day, so he was nursing an ankle from what I was told. It was no surprise when I passed him in chase of Jerry. I never saw Dick for the rest of the race and assumed he was only riding for points achieved by completing the race. Passing Dick, shoulder to shoulder, I saw Jerry come a little close to the edge of the track.

The back half of Barber’s most excellent track as two sets of “zig-zags” best approached for minimal speed interruption. Being as smooth as I could, it appears as if I may have become a bit fixated on Jerry as I closed through the Norton Hill turn set 12, 13, & 14. Jerry went off the track and began a quick dirt bike race while I stopped my exit from the track on the rumble strips.

This was my chance and I took advantage of it when I saw it. Staying on the throttle while Jerry had to ease off to recover, I raced pass the imaginary gathering of the Norton Family on the Hill in a manner of saying “watch this guys”. Heading toward the start/finish line, I didn’t look back. I held the lead until Jerry passed me just before the museum turn. He seemed to have a minor difficulty after uprighting from the turn which allowed me to stay close on his tail with some drafting effect. Jerry didn’t have to look back long to see me hot on his tail enjoying his wind wake.

Perhaps Jerry experienced a bit of a fluster flashback in view of Norton Hill because I was able to pass him through the last turn set. It was official. We were battling for the much sought after 350GP title available for the first time since WERA had vintage motorcycle racing, due to Doug Bowie’s absence. Of course, I was not surprised when Jerry passed me just before turn 1.  I knew this was going to offer some good footage and we ended up climbing out of Barber’s gravity cavity together.

For the next few laps, Jerry achieved and kept a slight distance between us although never leaving my sight. With nobody else around, I owned that portion of the track I was on. Turns came quite comfortably. I was slowly regaining any gap Jerry had created. Tasting that first place win, I continued to close on him. Then I saw it. That one last variable that could make or break the results at the finish line.

David Hurst was the one racer we would have to deal with as traffic on the track. I could tell Jerry slowed as he approached Norton Hill for the last pass of our race. Jerry’s encounter with David occured at a crucial point in the turn which required him to slow and avoid. By the time I passed David the track had opened after turn 12. As he cleared my view, there was the gradually sloping grassy plane known as Norton Hill. And, there was Jerry, in my sights.

Having not taken him before the last turns, I didn’t stand a chance to pass, but I was not to be left in dust for this exciting finish. Tucking in tight to Black Bullett, I became as aerodynamically smooth as possible. I crossed the finish line .884 seconds after Jerry did. As it turns out, my last lap was my fastest of the race and the fastest for the day, and possibly my best for the track, ever.

WERA 2017 GNF 500GP Race Video   I have to apologize but it appears the humidity inside the camera case built up over the course of the day noticeably affecting visibility of the recording.

A great time was had by those who participated. The awards ceremony was lightly attended so those present had to applaud for the many missing from the gala. It did prove to be a family affair with a total of 27 attendees including the WERA personnel that were present.  It is quite possible that this will be remembered as “the valley” of participation as we climb back up in popularity and participation of future WERA vintage racing history.

If you have ever thought about getting out on the track and having some ‘double digit” racing fun, grab a Honda 350 twin from 1968 to 1973 era and strip it down. There’s lot’s of guidance assistance available and the WERA 350 Honda guys do what it takes to get all racers out on the track to play with us. YOU could join us, IF you want to.

My contiguous gratitude to Mr. Martin Mattes of Sirius Consolidated Incorporated for his contiguous sponsorship. With two second place finishes at the GNF, leading to two second place standings nationally for the 350GP & 500GP vintage racing in 2017, it sounds like I still have a little room for improvement. I’ll be starting with the SCI 1.o mm over 350 Honda complete piston set for $89.99, a valve job, and cylinder honing for a fresh chance at playing with Jerry in 2018, and perhaps you, if you join us.

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Barber Vintage Festival: A Story Left Untold… for Now.

Having not had the chance to write up the entry into AHRMA racing yet, I’ve decided to just write about the WERA Grand National Finals instead.

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Best Laid Plans

I had looked forward to the marathon racing weekend for sometime and really looked forward to racing at the Barber Vintage Festival for the first time ever. To do so meant driving from Atlanta to Munford, Alabama Thursday night in order to practice with AHRMA on Friday. Upon successful completion of the practice day I was to drive back to Atlanta for a good night’s sleep before racing at Road Atlanta with WERA in the 350GP and 500GP races only to work my way back to Alabama to race on Sunday with AHRMA in the 350 Sportsman and 500 sportsman classes. And then there was Irma.

After a restless night under a bright full moon, I woke to a chilly start Friday morning. With the help of many of the AHRMA officials and lots of AHRMA racers as well. Registration was significantly less efficient than the WERA configuration so I completed AHRMA licensing and race registration just in time to join the racer’s meeting already in progress.

There were a few familiar faces who also race with WERA and even some I hadn’t seen in decades. Absorbing the information available, I picked up on a few differences between race organization’s procedures. Many blanks were filled in by David Hurst who was very helpful making sure I understood what was in store for the Barber Vintage Festival requirements, thank you, Sir! Learning that I was looking at five 15 minute practice sessions over the course of the day I returned to my pit and and prepped my bike.

Across pit row was Joe (the father) and Magnum Joe, his son who was going through the race school that day. They were both CB160 Le Mans start racers. Small bikes with a totally different racing style required. Both bikes looked like most the rest of the AHRMA racer’s bikes, mighty fine.

Having been at Lil Tally just a few weeks before, Black Bullet was already geared for the track at 15:35. A 5 gallon can of BP Amoco Ultimate to power BB and we were ready to run the track again. Practice group calls were difficult to hear so I kept an eye on another 350 Honda racer 15 pits away. Nothing special to report about the Tally track. Same as it ever was and still exactly the same as weeks before.

With 5 uneventful practice sessions under my belt with AHRMA, I went to pre-tech for Sunday’s races and was informed that hurricane Irma had the attention of AHRMA officials and things might not go a planned. I then collapsed the 10×20 canopy, filled the truck back up and headed to Atlanta with the ability to check back in the next day to see about Sunday’s plans.

Traffic was clear in the east bound direction as all those fleeing Irma were Alabama bound of or already off the roads. A good night’s sleep left me energized for the relatively short drive to Road Atlanta Raceway. Arriving just before 8 am, the lines were short to non-existent. Being preregistered, I was in and out with paperwork in hand in less than 2 minutes.

Due to the overlap of the WERA/AHRMA dual locations on the same weekend, the grids were light in both locations. Nobody else was attempting the Tally/Road Atlanta/Tally weekend like I was.

I shared John Cook’s canopy as I had planned to leave mine at Tally. The breeze was perfect to gusty. Nothing but sunshine in the skies, and the temperatures were predicted to approach 80 degrees. The day was beautiful for racing.

We were all surprised to see Sir Richard Oldakowski at the track but disappointed when he told us of his vehicular difficulties. The Mercedes Euro van wouldn’t start after he had filled his fuel can with 110 octane race fuel at the pump at Road Atlanta. I loaned Richard my truck and he went off to find a remedy. Rich came back after the practice sessions, racer’s meeting, and lunch time. Just as I was about to install the camera on the bike, Rich returned. Bad news was all he was faced with. Mercedes was closed on Saturday and Sunday and his daughter had to be back at work Monday morning. All said and done, all Rich was left with was having his van towed back to Farmville, Virginia. He offered me a handshake and he race fuel and left after finding the best offer for towing.

Bucky Sexton made it down from the northern states and Jerry Duke was there. That left me and David Rutherford in the 500GP and Doug Bowie in the 350GP races.

Since Rich left me with his 110 octane fuel, I totally drained my tank and half filled it with 110.

As our third and final call was announced, we headed to the pit out area and waited sign to take our warm up lap. Facing turn 1, we waited for the green flag. I had noticed the engine breaking up a bit as the warm up lap started and all throughout the lap. The 110 fuel came in question immediately. Not so much as bad fuel, but more the ability of my stock compression motor being able to perform properly with pure 110.

The flag ripped through the air and we took off. Immediately everybody was in front of me. I was trailing Bucky as the pack had thinned to a line of racers zigzagging through the bus stop and heading down hill through the esses. Bucky’s motor was popping and sputtering while my bike was performing as his sounded. I began to lose confidence in my possibilities to even keep up with Bucky as the race progressed. Already having consoled myself that a fuel swap was in order for the next race, I started to chuckle as Bucky was waving me past him. All I could think was “If I could, I would”.

As we approached turn one under speed for the first time, I simply held my throttle wide open and leaned as I passed him. The rest of the pack had pulled way ahead. After two more laps, I was already concentrating my efforts on the next race. Jerry, David, and Doug were having a great battle and I was not to be part of it.

Back at the pits after the 500GP was over, I drained the tank back into Rich’s race fuel can and half filled my tank with pump premium. Chugging some water and grabbing some shade, I prepped myself for the 350GP.

The warm up lap did give me some hope that I had determined correctly the problem I had experienced and I psyched myself for a competitive race. Doug, Jerry and I were all in a line while Bucky was behind us. The number boards went through the countdown and the green flag ripped through the air. Dick Gruhn was the only bike in his class starting if front of us. His much faster 2 stroke screamer took off and we all followed him.

Going into the bus stop we were all closely packed together. Down hill through the esses, we began to tighten up even more. Doug was behind us with Bucky. Jerry and I went through turn 6 side by side as I took him on the outside. I continued on the throttle and ended up drafting Dick through turn 7. This gave me a bit of an edge and allowed to pull away from Doug, Jerry and Bucky.

This felt a lot better than when the 110 was too much performance for my stocker 350. Now I had the track to myself. 10A and 10b went like clock work. I realized that I was performing for a prospective newbie 350 race as Scott Kulina and Jennifer were watching from the concrete stadium that gave a great view of turns 10a and 10b. Keeping my mind on the best line, latest braking, and earliest acceleration, I maintained my lead on Jerry, who was the next closest racer behind me. Turn 1, at wide open throttle was a shaky operation, but I needed to keep every ¼ second achieved by being most efficient through the turns that could be pushed the most.

The half way flag was the point where Jerry was closing on me. I looked back one last time before tur. n one and Jerry wasn’t there anymore. Turning my gaze on what was in front of me, I saw Jerry complete his pass and take turn one before me. My lead had just dissolved. I now had Jerry as my target and tailed him close. With each turn, Jerry was pulling away a little at a time. By the time we got the final lap flag Jerry had about 100 yards on me and I was surprised Doug hadn’t passed me yet. It wasn’t until after the back straight that Doug passed me and set his sights on Jerry. Before 10a, Doug took the lead and proved his technique of beating us just enough to keep us coming back for more.

My day did include two trips to the podium. I did get to thank the corner workers, Sirius Consolidated Incorporated, and Mr. Jerry Duke for stepping up his game and putting the Ducs in the front of the pack. However this also proved to be my first two 3rd places for the season. Perhaps freshening up my motor would be a good idea. Getting Red Storm’s motor repaired also seems to be a productive concept as well.

I am sorry to report that although the camera did appear to be recording, however, all the files from Tally and Road Atlanta are corrupted. Hopefully I’ll be able to get them repaired and edited in the future.

My next challenge is to ask AHRMA to make an exception and allow me to race at Barber Vintage Festival in lieu of refunding my race fees for Sunday racing that never happened.

Stay tuned for the next entry in this therapeutic journal.

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Hot, Wet (with sweat), and Exciting

Having not made it to all the races listed on this year’s schedule due to life’s realities kicking in at inopportune times, I was happy to make the much needed therapy session at Lil Tally on August 19, 2017.  The continually rainy summer in Atlanta had the humidity levels up around 70 percent plus all summer long. Just a day before the races at Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, the high pressure system brought in much drier air to significantly reduce the humidity levels. If it hadn’t… the weekend would not have been near as therapeutic.

After a restless night’s sleeplessness, as almost all are the night before a race, I got up early and drove west gaining an hour on the trip to Alabama. I ended up arriving with plenty of time to spare. However, I did appear to end up as the last one in the crowd standing in line for registration having forgotten to pre-register in the comfort of home. Although loud with unforgiving acoustics, the upper floor of the “silo” at Lil Tally does offer a great view of the track and surrounding areas. There was also the camaraderie of the others who had not pre-registered. John Cook was filling us in on his remaining details of his up coming  wedding in September. Jerry Duke was explaining his experiences in vintage racing. D.C. was adding joviality to the early morning while standing in line. All in all, we were reorienting ourselves on our alter-life of club racing with the best guys we could hope to be meeting us at the track.

Working my way to the “usual suspect’s” location where we normally pit at Tally I found Doug in his almost always reserved location. John Cook had assumed a location where I could park next to him. Together, we were playing the “roller skates & key” team work with my generator and his super heavy duty industrial strength fan that kept us cool all day long… so long as we kept refilling my newly acquired generator with gasoline. I must admit that little genny behaved with pride as I applied both 6 week old premium and 98 octane race fuel from the same era from Barber Motorsports Park. The only thing the Sportsman Inverter Generator would not tolerate was an empty fuel tank. John and I also shared my 10′ x 20′ canopy as it was going to take up all the space we had on the pavement anyway.

The Gran Prix vintage group and our entourage was a small set of racers. In attendance was  our big frog in our little pond, Mr. Doug Bowie (the king of 35oGP), John Cook, myself, Jerry Duke, David Clark (A.K.A. “D. C.”), David Hurst, Charles Galt and his only competitor in Vintage 3 class, Mr. Dick Gruhn, as well as David Rutherford (the king of 5ooGP)

We did not see attendance from Jeremy Backer (my closest neck & neck competitor) and one of buddies he showed up with at his last race set, Mr. Ryan Uebelhor, and Barry Hasenkopf, the newbie that I have been providing as much assistance and advice to as a veteran vintage rider could and he has still yet to make it to a track with his ever refining 350 Honda twin. James Walker did not make the Tally run. Mr. Mike Wells was definitely missed and will hopefully be able to join us at Road Atlanta in September. The “yankee team” of Bill Johnson and Bucky Sexton were missed and will be seen by the Grand National Finals, if not before. Special note of Kurt Kesler’s absence as he is one of the true “Mr. Congeniality” racers in the mix.

In the two smoke (2 stroke) world, honorable mention goes out to attendees like Dick Gruhn, Jim Hinshaw, Mark Morrow, Mark Williams, and includes names from the regulars like Charles Galt, Dick Clark, David Hurst, Jeremy Sharer. I wish to thank all of these gentlemen for the mosquito control they exhibited with the clouds of blue that sent all the insect life running for other states within the union;)

The forgiving line up for practice has us vintage bike guys practicing last in the line up, giving us the time necessary to get those old bikes patched up and ready for the race track. As such, by the time we made it out for our first practice session, the track was hot and dry. On this particular race day, our race line up was similar as we (in the 350GP/500GP classes and the Vintage 1/Vintage 2 classes) racing in the 8th and 11th (final) race of the day. For me, this was a blessing. I had not yet re-geared for the Tally shorter track, even though I practiced with the taller gearing for Road Atlanta & Barber Motorsports Park.

Practice went smooth and uneventfully. This left us with plenty of time to clean bikes, change gearing, all but overhaul engines while waiting to race. We got to see plenty of action in the other race classes and it was encouraging to see so many “orange t-shirts” indicative of new novice racers joining the fold. Welcome aboard all.

500GP Tally August 19th, 2017

As race 8, Vintage 2 & 500GP classes, time grew near, we began to suit up and experience the sweat that was caused simply from wearing leather suits, gloves, boots, and full face helmets, once doned. Standing still in this outfit was relieved by sitting in front of John’s monster fan, except for the times when the natural wind blocked the effects of the fan. Eventually, we relocated the fan to work with the wind, rather than against it. Hearing 2nd call for the V2 & 500GP race, we snapped up, mounted the bikes, kicked them to life and headed to pit out. However… we waited for a long time while the automobile traffic crossed the track to exit while traffic from outside came in. Scott Hayes also had at least one crashed/broken down race bike to pick up and I was grateful for the trailer awning that offered the only shade I could find to pull under.

The whistle blew and rounded us up for the warmup lap and we took off. Leaving the visor lifted I felt the drenching sweat begin to cool my face, upper lip, and eyelids, which had collected the salty stinging coolant my body had created. Pulling into my grid position as one of the first in the pack, I started and verified the camera was running.

The start of the race included Jerry Duke popping a wheelie at the start in my peripheral vision as we headed for turn 1. David Rutherford followed in Jerry’s wake as the two of them cut through the Vintage 2 class of riders that started in front of us. Uprighting from the first turn, I saw a nice set of targets to chase and they were pulling away from me. By turn 3, I was on Jeremy Sharer’s tail looking at David and eyeing Jerry who had just made an impressive pass of John Cook. This was impressive as John was in the V2 class of faster bikes. With a few bikes in my class behind me, it was the two ahead of me that had my attention.

By turn 5, I was drafting in David’s wake and trying to look around him to see where Jerry was  advancing in the pack. John still had not regained his position in front of Jerry. My loss of the “big picture” led me to be surprised when Jeremy squeezed between me and what little room I left at the edge of the track. For the first lap, Jeremy had positioned himself strategically between me and where I wanted to be. Turn 1 of lap 2 had me staying on the throttle as Jeremy backed off. By the time I reached turn 3, David was closing on Jerry and the 500GP leaders were all grouped together. The tight right hander had me trailing David then all of a sudden, there was Jeremy again. Just a quick show of a wheel to keep me on my toes and minding my P’s and Q’s.

While straightening up for the back straight, I closed any space that Jeremy might find inviting as I closed on David and Jerry. Pushing hard in turn 1, I got closer. Braking late in turn 3 had me back on David’s tail. The right hand sweeper had me side by side with David and left Jerry in my target sights. Uprighting from the only real right hand turn at Tally I was on Jerry’s 6 and receiving some draft effect.

Jerry left me some space on the inside and my later braking had me passing him through the left hand sweeper before the back straight. I had made it to the front of the 500GP pack, took away all space between me and the outside of the track, tucked in and down behind the GoPro camera as if it was a fairing and I headed toward the last turn set. Both Jerry and David humbled me before I reached the end of the long straight as I followed them through the last turn.

Jerry gave up his lead taking the turn too sharp left him scrubbing off some speed. While I headed toward David, Jerry took me again on the inside of turn 1 and again that left him scrubbing off speed through the turn. Late braking into 3 left Jerry behind me and David became a little closer. David took the right hander a little wide leaving me the ability to creep underneath him and trailing him as we both uprighted. I was able to draft David enough to ride along side him for a short stint.

By this time, David was not being bothered by anyone and began to slide into his groove. I trailed as closely as I could, but noticed the unencumbered 500cc BSA was now in charge and the best I could do was keep up within a few hundred feet. By the 4th or 5th lap, David was looking back to see what was behind him. This is very evident in the video. His favorite place to look back was right after the right hander. I too looked back and noticed that I had at least one turn span between me and the traffic behind me. That was it. Seeing David’s pull away power I knew I’d not be able to sustain overtaking him and I had another race to think about.

I paced myself, maintained my lead on the rest of the racers and kept my head down. The only other traffic I encountered was David Hurst whom I lapped on the outside of the right hander, just before the race ended.

Back at the pits it was time for some water, some more water, and a splash of water on the t-shirt to keep hydrated. Free from my heat insulators (leathers) and having drank to feel safe, I walked over to David’s pit and asked him if he thought he had to work for that trophy. We had a quick chat about the Continental vintage radials I was running and then it was time for me to suit up again. Time to chase Doug in the 350GP class next.

Enjoy the WERA GP500 race video

350GP Tally August 19th, 2017

Again, Jerry had a great start and jumped out in front of me. No sign of Doug yet as we all leaned into turn 1. As we uprighted, Jerry was right in front of me and the two of us were chasing John. Again, Jeremy was bursting onto the scene and surged ahead of me going into turn 3. This is when things got a little hairy. John had a good inside line and proceeded to pass Mark Williams. They “tagged” each other as John miss shifted into a false neutral and Mark turned into John while making the turn unnecessarily tight. It was only a slight bump and nobody got hurt or went down. However, Marks reaction was less than focused as he seemed to forget that he was in the middle of a race. This left him almost stalled right in front of me and I have the footage to show it.

John recovered quickly and Jerry took advantage of the situation with me blocked behind Mark and passed me. The three of us continued down the track until Jerry decided to play dirt bike rider and go off the track in the last turn set. The opportunist in me decided to tuck down, speed up, and wait for Doug. It took him a few laps but he took me on the inside and the production just became the “Doug Bowie Show”.

It’s always a great learning experience to chase Doug especially on tight tracks like Tally. Each turn became a little lesson in motorcycle racing. I trailed Doug for a few laps until I noticed that Doug was gaining on Dick Gruhn who is one of the fastest riders in vintage racing. Dick was obviously having issue with this pack barrelling down on him. Seems he had technical difficulties that caused him to drift back into the GP pack.  I took advantage of Dick’s draft to gain on Doug wherever possible.

This pretty much covered the remainder of the race. The tail end of the race had John, Doug, Dick, at about a hundred yards ahead of me until the very end of the race where David Hurst became part of the pack as he was lapped, one at a time, by the group of riders in front of the camera.

A very honorable mention goes out to Mr. Mark Morrow who first proved that he could lap me (something that is very rare) in the last turn set only to wave me by to join the pack I was chasing. This meant he did not lap me by the time the two of us crossed the start finish line for my 9th lap which would have ended my racing a lap early. What a true gentleman and skillful racer.

It’s been said, and proven true, many times over and over, that you meet the nicest people on a Honda. This was the slogan that Honda had when the 350 twins were on the showroom floor. It holds true even today for all Japanese vintage motorcycle owners. If you’d ever like to experience this phenomenon with the volume turned up, spend a weekend at the Barber Vintage Festival in October. You’ll find it to be great therapy like no other.

Check out the WERA GP350 race on YouTube

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Best Day on the Track, Ever!

July 4th, Independence Day, Weekend has always been special for this freedom loving American. This one will always stay fresh in my memory. Barber Motorsports is what I’ve called the finest campus we go to race at. For years now, WERA has arranged it so that we spend the weekend closest to Independence Day at the finest campus…

Today had other treats to offer. Jeremy Backer made it back to the track after about three years hiatus. He also brought a couple new additions to the track. Ryan Uebelhor showed up on what was once Jamie Brenton’s GP350 race bike. His brother Nolan was present to assist in the pits. Ryan took the WERA rider’s school and signed up for both the 350GP and 500GP races. Also new to the WERA track was  Jeremy Sherer, a Kawasaki Big Horn rider in the 2-smoke category.

It should also be noted that there was a missing contingent who had committed to make the Mid-Ohio races the following weekend and had to forego the Barber racing festivities.

The usual suspects like David Hurst, Jerry Duke, David Rutherford (500GP only), and Doug Bowie (350GP only) were present. They were matched with Jeremy Backer and the two he brought into the mix. It wasn’t the packed grids of AHRMA, but the improvement was appreciated in the two classes. Hopefully, a few more will join us for each race and WERA too will have some full vintage racing grids.

Honorable mentions in the vintage grids include Michael Wagner in the V6 grid, Mark Morrow who again played the national anthem on his coronet, thank you Mark, Dick Gruhn on his tws stroke screaming machines (Quick Bikes), Mark Williams on his Kawasaki green two stroke 500cc triple, John Cook and Charles Galt of the Vintage 1/2 class,  and David Clark, Jerry Duke’s race partner, in the Vintage 3 class. There were plenty more vintage racers there, I just listed the handful I know by name.

Unlike the race schedule we had at Road Atlanta that ended less than 1/3 the way through the race day, we (350/500 GP and V1/v2 classes) had the 8th and 11th (final race for the day) which gave us plenty of time to tweak things like ignition timing, replace float needle seats and seals, and install the new Antigravity battery sent by my sponsor, Sirius Consolidated Incorporated long before the race 8.

In spite of the likelihood of rain throughout the day, we had hot weather and the only sign of rain was the “ooze” that bled from the track and gave all of us something to avoid. The cracks in the track at Barber, having seen rain for the days before our Saturday race, leaked water and whatever came up with it onto the track, leaving a shimmering gloss that if nothing else would cause all of us to try to avoid them whenever leaning at speed. Add high humidity, temperatures peaking at 90 degrees, ever changing cloud conditions threatening to dump on us now and then, and you had a physical and psychological weight upon us all.

Practice was fairly uneventful. The first practice was only a few laps, while the second practice session offered more time/laps on the track so we could mentally note the location of each of the mini/micro rivers of oozing liquid where we’d have prefered dry track.

My motor, which I had pretty much written off as being several years raced without a rebuild got me thinking that I really couldn’t make it any worse. So, after practice and during the long wait until race 8, I decided to experiment with the ignition timing a bit more. Running a Dyna-S electronic ignition off the crankshaft with my OEM stock back up points system on the camshaft, I hadn’t seen any reason to doubt their settings as optimum. I still proceeded to tinker with variables I could change.

First adjustment showed noticeable improvement. Looking on my custom ignition plates I found a some markings and lined up a few of the unmarked etchings. Taking a test ride in part of the parking area of the pits, I felt noticeable improvements. More tinkering lead me to believe I was making notable improvements. Leaving the adjustments at the best performance settings, I buttoned up the side covers and made ready for the first race.

For the previous races this season, I was thankful for the improvements I had induced in the handling with alloy wheels, new spokes and newly laced & true wheels, Continental radial race tires, the SL350 rear hub mated with the CL175 brake plate and shoes, etc… I had been making up for the fatigued engine with pushing the velocity through every turn, gaining in those areas where others had apprehensions, and doing all I could with what I had. The increase in performance had me feeling more optimistic with the races of the day.

Watching the laps remaining on race #7, I began to suit up and make my way to the pit out area. It seems that for some reason, there were two waves of racers that were released to the track. As such, the first wave that I was in had to sweat in the grid while we waited for the rest of the 500GP/V2 Class to join us. What I did not do during this wait was to turn on the camera’s recorder. Eventually, the rest of the racers all showed up together and the countdown began.

I had the best start I’d experienced in a long long time. Next thing I knew, I had past all the racers in the class in front of me and was in the front of the pack. Clearing turn one and heading toward turn two, I remembered to turn on the camera. By this time, there was nobody in front of me. Unfortunately the start was not recorded. What followed was a battle that Jeremy and I had that fully tested my pre-race tinkering.

I enjoyed being in front up until Jeremy took me on the inside of “Charlotte’s Web” where he swooped under me and took the lead. As is usually the case when I believe that I have half a chance to catch up, I went into speed shifting. This is where I pull in the clutch, but don’t ease off on the throttle. I was pleased that at a certain point, Jeremy no longer increased the gap between us. He maintained a constant distance between us as we sped through the museum turn of Barber Motorsports Park and I tracked him from a distance.

We levelled off  heading toward the first zig-zag (chicane) where I noticed I was beginning to close on him slightly. By the time we levelled off after the chicane, I was drafting him and even past him… for a moment. He then surged by and led the way around the sweeping final turn set best viewed from Norton Hill. He was back after a few years without racing, so I had to leave him some room as he tried a few unorthodox techniques. Wide here then tight at the apex, I knew if I hadn’t planned for his maneuvers we were going to collide.

The best feedback I got from trailing him at first was that it seemed that my “tired motor” had just received new life from my canopy tinkering. I was actually closing on him as we approached maximum velocity. I realized I had a chance here if I could avoid slipping back or making any foolish mistakes. We crossed the start/finish line for the first time since the start and I was closing as we headed toward turn 1.

As we approached the first set of right hand turns, Jeremy again went wide while I dipped to the inside. Together we climbed up and out of the mini gravity cavity and headed toward Charlotte’s Web again. Jeremy did a nice job of pulling away from me throughout all of the Web and then museum turn. We’d get closer then further apart.

My theory of the tired motor began to get squashed as I again closed as we neared our top velocity. I draft him after the first chicane and took him before the second. This time, I led across the start/finish line, through turn 1, Charlotte’s Web, the museum turn, the chicanes, Norton Hill, and through the start/finish line again where he took me just before turn 1. We had a race that was going to be down to the wire.

I was back in his draft before the gravity cavity and we raced toward Charlotte. Side by side, we strained to the Web and he eased into the inside of Charlotte’s turn and had the lead again. I drafted him up to the museum turn. He pulled slightly away, then I was drafting him again toward the second chicane. He was barely ahead of me as we approached the second chicane and had me drafting him through the same turn that I ended my previous season at.

Completing this lap, he pulled slightly away from me yet I had closed again by turn one. Following closely, but not being comfortable behind Jeremy, I decided to keep my momentum up and barely overtook him at the museum turn. This allowed me to stay in front all the way through the white flag being waved furiously as I crossed the start/finish line, indicating there was only one lap to go.

I held him off until his strong point and he slide under me on the inside at Charlotte’s Web. With half a lap to go, I was looking for my opportunity to take the lead and keep in till the checkered waved for me. Jeremy didn’t get the usual distance between us after the Web. I drafted him toward the museum turn. I overtook him long before the turn and all I had to do was a more comfortable repeat of the previous lap.

However, that is not how Jeremy saw the conclusion of this race. He kept the throttle wide open and passed me with just enough space to ride the hump and lean hard right, through the micro river and down the back straight. Coming up alongside Jeremy through the first chicane we zig-zagged along side each other and headed toward chicane #2. As this was where we were approaching top velocity, I had a slight advantage and went through the chicane first and in front of him.

Norton Hill was in sight. I kept the inside track of the last turn set and tucked down for the smallest aerodynamic profile. Knowing that the best Jeremy could do was draft me and slingshot past, I just did my best to be the most efficient I could be. Upon crossing the line, I looked back to my left and there was nobody??? However, looking to my right, Jeremy and I were aerodynamically linked and he was travelling faster. We were both excited and I experienced the fastest fist bumps I’d ever shared on a bike.

Jeremy followed me to my pit. We both appreciated the closeness of our racing capabilities and looked forward to race #11 at the end of the race day. It was only one Solo race away, as the heavy experts and novice races were combined in a two wave race. We would play again… real soon.

It would seem that the Antigravity battery (8 cell) really made a big difference. Check out the SCI selection for an Antigravity battery that is correct for your application.

Watch and enjoy the best race I’d ever experienced as Jeremy and I battled for the WERA GP500 race at Barber Motorsports Park.

Best Day Ever, Round II

After the dust had settled over the excitement and I realized that my motor wasn’t quite as “tired” as I thought it was, I became a bit more conscious of the possibility of burning a hole in a piston in the case that I may have advanced my timing too much, so with the engine still hot from the race I pulled my stator cover and back off about 25% of the gains I had just enjoyed. I added the necessary amount of fuel for 7+ laps around the beautifully landscaped track at Barber MSP and checked the battery indicator which told me it was ready for another round of internal combustion battling.

There was only one “combined” race between the 500GP and the 350GP race and I downed 2 1/2 bottles of water, pouring the other half bottle over my T-shirt, hair, and over my face. Not only had I burned a lot of calories exerting my myself on the track, but my body was pumping the water out my pores just trying to keep cool in leathers.

With only two laps remaining in the combined expert and novice modern bike race I began the ritual of donning my chest protector, zipping up all loosened flaps, slid into my gloves, and put my helmet on as the laps remaining counter reached 1.  Pulling the bike of the makeshift stand, I rolled out on pit road and started the bike. The area around “pit out” was blocked off nicely and made for a nice warm up the tires and engine area with no real velocity required. A little bit of lean in the slow turns brought the engine up to temp and slightly warmed the tires for the warm up lap.

This time, we were all released to take the warm up lap and park in our grid positions. Once there, I remembered to start the recorder on the camera. Only a short wait before the countdown began. After a smooth and even start sequence we were all accelerating toward a fast track through turn one. I came upon Jeremy Sherer while leaning into turn one. Only the slightest easing off of the throttle showed Jeremy Backer plowing around Mr. Sherer and the race was on.

Not really fixated on JB (Jeremy Backer), but I did find myself drifting unnaturally wide through turn three while we experienced the rush of the downhill into the gravity cavity before the hill climb that was a horizon event that revealed the stretch toward Charlotte’s Web. JB took his trademark wide to tight (kinda dangerous) transition that put the V1 and F500 class between us before he cleared the crest.

I couldn’t believe that 25 degrees or so in timing shift could cause my 350 stocker to climb past the V1/F500 bikes and be on JB’s tail so quickly. Just halfway to the Web, it was like we were having a flashback to the previous race.  However… there was a new obstacle and he almost cost me a grass slide. As I attempted to take JB before the Web, John Cook showed is V1 powered 350 Honda front wheel to me just in time to admit he was not in the right place for Charlotte’s unforgiving off camber turn and backed off just as fast.

Just as John was out of sight, JB made an abrupt lane change crossing from the outside to the inside in front of me leaving me reacting less than optimally and almost ending up in the grass. My recovery gave John and Doug the chance to step in between me and JB. I was quite impressed with my little bikes response and ability to minimize the degradation of performance.

The straight toward the museum turn led me to believe that there was plenty of time to catch up and start the battle again. Enter Charles Galt. He “showed a wheel”, a racing term for letting another racer know that you’re in his game, and just as quickly eased off before the “museum hump” as his entrance left him on the inside of a very sharp turn ahead.  Approaching the hump, I watched the mob of bikes become a line that graciously fell into a line all trying to find the ideal traversion through the turn without being taken out by one of the micro rivers of ooze that racked our brains all day.

The hump is a concrete portion of the track designed for the small cars that race on the track in order to keep them on the pavement rather than riding the hump that motorcycles are more likely to “jump” over then lean into the turn. Cars don’t quite behave as beneficial as motorcycles that just consider the path as a way to “straighten out the curves”.

Uprighting after the curve, I saw four bikes in front of me, all taking different paths after the micro river avoidance, gradually realigning as some overtook others, heading toward the first of the two zig-zags. Wouldn’t you know it… JB was directly in front of me and our challenge had begun again. A quick draft after the turn set had me passing JB, or so I thought, before the second zig-zag, but such was not the case.  This misconception caused some serious confusion. Compounding the problem was the almost merger of Doug Bowie and Mark Williams at the squeeze of the second zig-zag while JB came back into the picture. This scene is worth playing over and over again to see how “hairy situations” can disappear quickly by doing what you’re supposed to do.

I must admit that Doug really cut close to Mark, but Mark didn’t respond as if flustered as Doug flew by. He also played it cool as JB took advantage of the hole Doug left for him on the Mark’s right while I followed shortly thereafter on Mark’s left. Still in the first lap, we’d had more excitement that most races have in their entirety.

JB took his unorthodox wide setup for a tight cut in front of me, but by this point I had become accustomed to it. I can only imagine that Doug was surprised as JB cut in front of him on the inside of the last turn before the start/finish straight. By the time we left the turn behind us, Doug was behind JB, I was following Doug, and in a good position to draft Doug past JB, or at least very close. JB and I leaned at the same time, side by side into turn 1 but JB kept the throttle on harder than I did through the turn. We had just completed the first lap and beginning the second of six.

Through turn 2, from the inside at the apex Jeremy then drifted wide again only to take a sharp cut toward the apex. However, this time he left space and drifted wide again going through the gravity cavity. We were close. This was becoming a rerun of the previous race. And the two of us had Doug, historically the default winner of the GP350 in all races and all season championships in the WERA GP350 since WERA had Vintage racing, not only in our sites, but we were on his tail. He’s our Big Frog in our Little Pond. However, Jeremy and I were chasing him close, so that had to be a good thing?

All three of us climbed the hill and headed toward the Web. I cut from the outside in most of the way to the inside but left room in case Jeremy was there. I followed Doug and drafted him through the turn. Doug’s pull-away power from his Ducati showed quite nicely, reminding me that Doug, like my late father, knew the art of “beat them just enough to keep them coming back”. If he wanted to Doug could turn this class in the Doug Bowie Show, leaving a separate show for the 350 Honda guys to battle it out, but he leads us on and we follow suit.

As I approached the museum turn for the second time I was close on Doug’s tail and hoping I had put some distance between Jeremy’s bike and mine. Making through the zig-zag where I normally performed better, I saw no sign of my battling counterpart. Doug was getting some good camera time as we past Norton Hill area and as I always try to do when following Doug, I was paying attention to any techniques I might pickup on.

Wrapping up the second lap on Doug’s heals was a rare occasion, so I wondered just how well my engine was doing. Before the second pass through the start/finish line Doug gave a glance back to see what was going on and there I was. I looked back and noticed we had put some distance between us and the bikes behind us.

Turn 1, following Doug’s path, we could see John Cook in front of us just 50 yards ahead. Drafting Doug through the Web, it appeared we were closing on John. The approach to the museum curve had Doug putting some distance between us. Halfway there, Charles Galt flew past me and he closed on Doug over the hump.  Charles made the hump look smooth and effortless as he continued to close on Doug. Not knowing where Jeremy was at this point, I just kept up my pace as Doug and Charles began to pull away.

Maintaining as much velocity as I could through the second zig-zag, I closed slightly. My momentum carried me closer to Charles through Norton Hill and into the last right hand turn of the track. By the time Charles made is final lean, I was all but part of his rear wheel. Levelling off from the last turn set, I was thinking I liked Charles race line better than my own.

Approaching the start/finish line, Doug had pulled away from Charles. Charles was pulling away from me, and still no sign of Jeremy. Charles Yamaha RD400 had some serious power, especially have he had invested in a nice expansion chamber exhaust system that did a nice job of optimizing his performance. Going through turn 1, 2, and 3, I kept up with Charles and we headed towards the Web. With nobody in my way through the Web, I used all the breadth of the turn from outside to inside and all the way back to the outside of the turn barely gaining on Charles, only to loose all I had gained in the straight towards the museum hump.

The back half of the track had me slowly gaining on both Doug and Charles to the point where I had great video footage just in time to see Charles washout in front of me in the last right-hander before the last left. With Charles separating from his bike, I then had to obstacles that I had to chant to myself “do not get fixated on either”. Charles cleared the track, but his bike stopped on the track, in the race line. A few turns later, the corner workers (Salutes and Kisses to you all) all had the red flags flying through the air indicating this race was over and we were to safely return to the pits.

As we entered the pits the “cut-throat” sign that we received from officials and spectating racers alike told us we had gone past the half-way mark of the race so it was officially over. The standing at the last completed lap would determine class standing and the winner of each class.

Only after getting back to the pits, having consumed a celebratory beer, and exited my leathers did I find out Jeremy had caught back up and saw the crash as well. So yes, it was the best day on the track ever. Taking second place in the WERA GP350 at Barber Motorsports Park on the 4th of July weekend with Doug Bowie in sight, just a turn ahead of me, made my day complete.

As I stated at the awards ceremony, I thank the corner workers with Salutes and Kisses to all, WERA Vintage motorcycle racing for a place to play with my friends, Sirius Consolidated Incorporated for their decade long sponsorship, and Jeremy Backer for making the race weekend as exciting as it possibly could be. I hope to recreate this excitement again really soon.

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Excellent Price on a CB160 Show Bike? $2,750 with 944 Original Miles

SOLD! Babyhawk has a new owner now. Hopefully Willy can make it to the Barber Vintage Festival with Babyhawk. If you’re ever in Tuscaloosa, AL and see a beautiful CB160, wave and say hello to Willy.

A World Class special deal available! A virtually unused (@ 944 miles) CB160 with virtually all OEM parts original. Available for an unprecedented $2,750,

https://atlanta.craigslist.org/eat/mcd/6172892628.html

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Barber Vintage Festival Tickets on Sale NOW!

If you like vintage motorcycles or vintage motorcycle people or vintage motorcycle racing, you could be in for a long weekend treat.

barberVINTAGE- Tix on Sale

Me and 70,000 of my closest friends have had a blast for more than a decade. Come join us. Vintage motorcycle optional, but alway welcome.

 

 

 

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