Leaving the Atlanta area on Good Friday and heading to Florida was not an
original idea. Keith and I were able to get out of his driveway around 6:30.
The sun was still in the sky and we hit the road. Local traffic getting to
the highway, southbound traffic on I-85 and a backup on I-285 were nothing
compared to I-75 south of the Atlanta perimeter. Both directions of traffic were
rubber-necking the other.
Charlie called, so we asked for a traffic report. Come to find out, Charlie
was three miles behind us in the soup. He met us as we pulled off for gas and
a drive through meal. Then he led the way at a racer’s pace all the way to the
Briarwood where we stayed for lack of space at exit 5. Seems the Easter
traffic was attached to Easter travelers that needed a place to stay.
Doug already had his and Charlie’s room checked in. So, we had our fair
share of Bowie effect when we got there. He pointed out his great deal on
the million mile diesel Dodge he got for a song. After calling home, beer,
peanuts and Samoas were the flavors of the evening. After an hour of telling
stories that either did or did not happen, along with threats and challenges
of the next day’s races, we grabbed a few hours sleep.
20 miles north of Jennings GP, South Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday March 29th
As Keith had to replace one, possibly two tires on his EX540, we got an
early out. As departing, Doug poked his head out the room and made mention
of the late sleepers starting the day before him and the regular early
riser. We returned the remote for the $5 deposit and grabbed the free
breakfast offered by the Briarwood. Coffee! Creamer and sugar included.
After a less than quick trip through Wal-Mart for water, we headed the 20
plus miles to the track.
Jennings GP was exercising a less than efficient process at the main gate.
You had to drive up, get out of your car, walk to the gate house, sign, pay
and get back in your car to go. We started a parallel processing system
leaving the cars three deep to get to the gate house and split quick. Not a
Team Old & Oily recommended process.
Weather was comfortable cool and getting warmer. We got situated at the pit.
Grabbed our IDs and waited 40 minutes in line for registration. It was a
beautiful sun rise and we had nothing better to do than to watch the sight.
Morning announcements and rider school calls came through the rather clear
PA system. Discount cards and number plates for divisional champs have
still not been delivered, but the discounts seem to be accurately listed and
posted at the registration window.
Getting back to the pits, we assembled bikes, canopies, and support areas.
We started bikes as the practice sessions were announced. With Keith’s tire
requirements, two race bikes, and shortened prep time, he missed his first
EX practice session and we took the track on the 350 Hondas.
The cool weather offered clean thick air and the bikes liked the oxygen rich
mixtures. I took the first practice session easy while testing the newly
installed steering bearings. No signs of any issues with the engine, so I
concentrated on the steering and front end. The front brake works well, even
though it’s still using the 40 plus year old original brake shoes. I have a
CB77 Superhawk front wheel and brake system which offers a significant
improvement in stopping power over the more than adequate CB350 front wheel
and brake combo.
Upon returning to the pit area, I noticed that the port side carburetor had
a significant overflow problem. Disconnecting the MotionPro 1/4 "quick
disconnects stopped the flow of gas. Then I checked the plugs to find them
running a little lean. I had just mounted the spare set of carbs retrieved
from loan to Keith and wanted to test them before putting them on eBay.
Keith remembered not using the left (port) carb due to gas overflow issues.
I found that the o-ring sealing the float needle seat was shrunken and did
not make a complete seal. Swapping seats/o-rings did the trick. And it gave
me something to do as the warmth settled in that morning.
Keith took the EX out for one practice session with the original rear tire
as-is, but after the session decided to change the rear tire. Not bad for
having the tire mounted and balanced. It only cost him $130 for a fat wide
race compound rear tire. I found that hard to believe since we last paid
$150 per tire for drop shipped Avons that we have to mount and balance
ourselves. On the other, the 350 Hondas don’t require new tires every four
of five race weekends.
For the second V1-4 practice session, the weather had warmed up about 70
degrees. The humidity had begun to rise and engine cooling was less natural.
On this round, I noticed a bit of spit and sputter. The more I hit higher
RPMs the more spit and sputter. I’m using a super serious 12 volt gel cell
battery. And, the battery indicator that I got from Dean Middleton (we
missed you this weekend) indicated, as expected after a whole sleep session
charge, that all systems were charged. So, I shut down just before the end
of the second practice session and walked the bike back from pit out.
Inspection of the plugs indicated that the plugs were a little lean.
Remembering that the traditional 115 main jets were not installed, I swapped
out the 110s for 115s and hoped that was my problem.
I have changed a few variables that have caused me to chase my tail. The 2
into 1 exhaust system was just getting stabilized when I gave up on scraping
it on the track. The trip to Barber Motorsports where Keith almost beat me
(within a bike length) caused me to reconsider the lean necessary to prevent
grinding the 2 into 1 combiner. Road Atlanta was a mostly right hand turn
track, so keeping it on for the Grand National Finals made sense. This
winter’s race bike work included putting the 2 into 1 into storage.
Keith completed the tire change during my carburetor jet swap, so I didn’t
get to see much of what was going on. There were stories later about some
unsanctioned karate action going on. There is also a new name to introduce
to the vintage race scene. Brad Padgett took his race school throughout the
day on Saturday. He made arrangements to not only complete the all day
school, but he also registered to race in the GP500, last race of the day.
A couple weeks earlier I had the pleasure of hosting Brad at the Carb Master’s
carb shack. We took a close look at his diaphragms and I had to agree that
his ordering had merit. I sent him off with a set of loaner
diaphragms/slides for his stock CB/CL/SL350 carbs and he left me with a
cooler of Sam Adams. Will work for beer!
Brad showed up with a mighty fine looking bike and set of leathers. His
CL350 more resembled an SL350 of the single down tube persuasion. Gold and
white with the sweetest high temp flat black exhaust system. We didn’t get
to see much of him as his school schedule was the complement to our practice
schedule. A visit now and then revealed that he thought the school was good
and he was happy to be there.
Lunch break included the usual rider’s meeting, documenting our grid
positions, and duct taping the data to the gas tank. A quick sandwich was
woofed down for some carbos and plenty of water to fight of the dehydration.
After the national anthem, the Minis race started off the racing atmosphere.
GP350 was the second race, so we started suiting up as the Minis race began.
We were all impressed at the vintage grid size since the Jennings race was
expected to have a light turnout due to the overlap with VIR. As it turns
out, we had a decent sized race grid.
Approaching the starting grids on the warm-up lap, I noticed that the spit
and sputter was returning. The good news so far was the clutch push rod oil
seal that blew out last race was holding up great. The steering bearings
were smooth and snug. Now I had to see just how badly this would affect me.
Having not finished one race and not started the other at Talladega, I was
starting the season with an absence of points for my race stats. And for
Jennings, I was about to start a race with only a partial ignition system or
Getting to the grids, I concentrated on keep the motor running and my eye on
Chuck, the race starter. Chuck took his eyes off his watch, noting that we
were no longer in the relaxing mode, but we were now in the ready to race
mode. The number three sign was replaced by the number two sign.
Transmissions put into gear and engines began to rev up. 2 flipped to 1, 1
rotated a half turn and then the green flag ripped through the air. We were
off and heading toward turn one. Before I got to turn one, Keith was in
front of me, along with a student racer (wearing a bright colored t-shirt)
and another bike. This left Keith with two blockers between us.
Not having operated behind Keith before, I was working myself into position
to get in front of him. First, the colored t-shirt had to be passed. This
occurred at the end of the back strait. Slowing seems to be natural as you
approach the "swishy-swish" turns that should be treated like a strait line.
From significantly behind, I maintained speed through the swishy-swish and
passed after turn four. One more obstacle to go and I passed him after turn
11. Keith was only about a hundred yards ahead and I was gaining on him
toward his favorite turn.
After you have crashed on a certain track, there are memories that stick
with you. Most times there’s a conscious awareness of "your turn" that you
crashed at but sometimes only subliminally, Keith’s turn is turn 13, just
before pit out. He has to warm up to it and this was still the first lap. By
turn one, I was drafting him. The only problem left was that I was at
maximum motor power and it was waning slowly. I couldn’t figure out was
other possibilities were left. It didn’t matter right now. I had a chance
and I had to play it smart.
I was hoping that Keith had apprehensions about the swishy-swish turns, but
I had no such luck. As a matter of fact, he maintained speed that gave me
apprehension. It gave me reason to pledge rear brake work for my safety
sake. I lack the ability to use the rear brake since I switched to the 2
into 2 exhaust system. It gets in the way.
So I trailed Keith for two and a half laps. We had discussed the role of
being in front and how awkward it could be. I was hoping he would show me a
way around him. No weakness did I find that would allow my "barely keeping
up with him" motor to pass him comfortably.
Then I picked turns 8 and 9 as my point of opportunity. Going hotter into
turn 8, I pushed and leaned into turn 9 and was gaining fast. Just then,
Keith had a sudden slowing. I don’t know if he miss shifted or throttle
adjusted. But I had to go wide to avoid him. Heading off the track, braking
hard just before the end of pavement.
Two seconds and a lot less momentum later, I was back on the track.
For the remainder of the race, I waited for the inevitable lapping by the
leaders to take me out of my misery. Keith had almost exactly a one hundred
yard lead on me the remainder of the race. I may even have drifted back a
bit. Then as if to shorten my suffering, Doug Bowie, Jessie (Shake and Bake)
and the mystery rider on the SL350 came flying by me, shortening my race by
As I came around turn 13, I watched Keith take the checkered flag. I stayed
hot into turn one after the checker to catch up to and congratulate Keith.
Touching hands on the track while maintaining control of race machines. You
gotta be careful. Don’t want to do anything dangerous. Later on the cool
down lap, I had to slow and allow Keith to pass me in order for him to enter
the pits before me. He earned it.
All I could think about was "what was I forgetting?" Many races earlier I
had shortened my ignition wiring system down to the absolute minimum wiring
required to achieve the results.
This eliminated, or at least minimized the chances of dealing with a wiring
issue under the gas tank as I had at Kershaw.
Ignition, compression, and carburetion are the three basic elements for an
internal combustion. I did not test my compression, but had no reason to
believe that was the problem. I plan to test compression if I have no reason
to believe the problem is from the other to elements. So I worked on
carburetion and seemed to identify any remaining issues. So, during the
break between race 1 and race 9, I worked on ignition. Checking the points
gap I noted that the adjustment range of the points was maxed out and not at
the proper point gap distance.
The search was on. New points were on the menu. No big deal as I had a
complete tune up kit with the race bike parts supply box. While behind the
points cover, I checked the centrifugal timing advance unit. No problems so
I just lubricated the springs and weights. Replacing the points plate, I
adjusted the points gap, reassembled the bike and fired it up.
It idled like a champ and revved just fine. Time for a snack and social
Race 9, GP500
Brad joined us as we suited up. Bikes to the starting rollers, last minute
re-fueling of race bikes, and we were off to pit out. The heat of the day
was maxing out at 76 degrees. The overcast skies were keeping the direct
heat of the sun off the track. So our unheated tires were warmed only by the
air and a quick warm lap around the track. Almost immediately I hit the gas
and the spit and sputter followed. I knew in seconds that, at best, I was
going to have a repeat of race one. At worst, I would have to deal with the
possibility of not finishing the race.
It seems that the warmer the weather got, the more the motor gave out. From
the beginning of the race I drifted back further. After two laps, I looked
back and noticed there was someone behind me. Was I being lapped, this early
in the race? Was there a super racer capable of such speeds? Then as I
cleared turn 10, I noticed the racer had a colored t-shirt on. But he was
gaining on me. Suddenly I realized that Brad wasn’t in the pack in front of me.
He was behind me and gaining.
So, not only was I going to be lapped around the half way flag, but I was
about to be passed by the new kid on the block. Sure enough, he passed me
smooth. I got to follow him for a few turns and then a cloud of dust. Brad
had a smooth technique, but was turning too early. As such, I saw him have
to take the back end of the turn wide and into the sand.
Having crashed at that same turn, I immediately turned my focus away and
watched what I was doing. I did get to see him stand up and swing his arms
in frustration. He was fine. He was disappointed and I found out later that
he really crushed his beautiful exhaust system.
It was back in the slow race mode, so I started thinking. Thinking about
inevitably being lapped and troubleshooting my motorcycle. Finally it dawned
on me. I had to charge my battery Friday night at the motel because I left
the ignition on. I realized that I had done so because I burned my hand on
the coil. The last time I did this, I had a basic motorcycle battery. This
super battery did not drop voltage after a half hour of coil charge. As
such, the coil took the hit. I just know it. . . But on the track, you can’t
Jessie (Shake and Bake) came around and lapped me first. Then the SL350
mystery rider was some time later. That was it. I never saw the white flag.
It was never waived for me. I was lapped between my second to last lap and
my new scheduled last lap, where I was cut short. The pain was over. I hadn’t
been an obstacle for anyone on the track. I didn’t cause one racer to
complain about how he lost the race due to my positioning on the track. It
was a "not bad" day which leaves room for better days to come.
Trouble shooting summary and the next race report will be sent after the
event that follows. The next scheduled race for me will be Summit Point,
April 19th. I get to visit my brother in Leesburg, VA. Hope he isn’t into
exhaustion with his last semester working on his masters.
More later. Jack