After the slow start to the season, it was time to make my solo run to Summit Point. A track I’ve known only from the controversy left behind by Dean “Toecutter” Middleton. Seems he spanked the local boys so bad, that cries of cheating rang out cross the BBS for WERA racers, far and wide. Little did they know, nor had I at the time, that Dean has spent many a summer’s track days at that very same track in his past.
After a half day at work, I hit the road for my nine hour journey to West Virginia. It was only a little warm in my un-air-conditioned truck. But with minimal supplies and a recently timed CL350, I was on my way.
Time goes fast when you are interested in the book on tape that you are listening to. Some times it goes so fast you might forget to watch the gas gauge. Usually, if you are properly hydrating yourself, that’s not an issue.
The 11 PM arrival was a great start to the weekend. I entered the track after paying my gate fee and proceeded to find a place to park and pitch my tent. Maslow’s hierarchy had yet to be met. Tired and dry mouthed, I crept through the pits looking for any vintage race bikes. Deep into the main pit road I saw one, then another, and then focused on a row of 350 Hondas under canopies.
Parking brake engaged, I exited the Ranger and stepped toward a small group of racers sharing stories of past race weekends. Immediately, one man stood and walked directly toward me. He asked “who are you?” Without any hesitation, I said I’m Jack, Videojack on the BBS. He smiled, extended a hand and said, “I’m Tex”.
“Racer Tex” I said. “Damn glad to meet you in person”.
Right off the bat, Tex showed his Mid Atlanta hospitality and offered me a beer. Imagine an Ice cold beer after 600 miles of driving without A/C. Tex hosted me for the whole weekend. He didn’t even ask if I forgot to bring my canopy. He just moved his bike over and said “when ever you are ready, let’s get you unloaded”.
His actions spoke louder than any words that went flying over the BBS this past winter!
You see, we have all survived a “virtually brutal” rash of BBS bantering over the rules of the GP350 class as they pertained to the indexing of the 350 Honda into a class of which it is too new. Based on keeping the motor stock and using stock carburetors, it was “allowed in” and must remain stock. Many had complained about the pickiest things that made no difference in performance of the affected motorcycles compared to the skill levels of the various riders that jockeyed them.
“A whole lotta torque about nuttin” to put it into wrench speak.
As such, I did found myself specifying that I was not CharlieY on the BBS. This occurred during the same conversation where Tex back-pedaled a bit to say that he was so impressed by Dean’s prowess on the track and that he did not mean to imply that he must be cheating. He’s just crazy fast. We had a good evening of settling in talk and then I actually enjoyed pitching my tent under the full moon. Very soft, but well diffused lighting made it very easy to assemble the tent. Having forgotten to bring the air mattress, I did not disturb anyone with the air pump.
The 9” high fescue was not half as comfortable as it looked, nor half as uncomfortable as you might think. Then again, I was tired. I slept and then the sun rise entered my eyes. That caused me to roll over and hear the sounds of the morning. There were not any engines running. There were songs from the birds of and early spring morning. The roosters had nothing on the singers. Loud and clear, word was out. Time to rise and shine.
I returned to the canopy area and everybody else was up and moving. Registration went quick, since I pre-registered. Tech inspection was smooth as I had lock-wired everything before my departure. 8 AM and the percussion and rhythm of vintage bikes was music in the mountains.
Once I saw the schedule and new that I was in the fourth and sixth races, I new I would be loaded up and heading out right after my last race. That would allow me to be in around midnight.
My first practice session was a technical nightmare. Spit and sputter were the two sounds that my motor generated. Carb work was still required. I swapped back to my “old faithful” set and dealt with them through out the morning.
Second practice session was like a chorus repeat of the first.
Float adjustment, jet swap, diaphragm check, intake manifold check and more than I can remember. All of my time was spent on my machine. I must have seemed like a total anti-social wrench-O-matic maniac.
Each time I was out on the track, I got to learn it a little more. But, I must admit that I was spending more time concentrating on my mechanical difficulties and troubleshooting.
Eventually I completed all that could be tested and Tex recommended I use the road approaching the pit area to test run it. Every thing seemed good to me. No sign of the high RPM sputter. This left me with time to see what was going on around me.
It didn’t take long to notice that Peter was having ignition difficulties. He had toasted his electronic ignition and had noting to go on. Just like I had done with Mike Ewer, I pulled out what I had and sat next to Peter. We slapped in the timing advance plate and springs. The points plate followed and wiring to finish the installation. Timing was not an immediate possibility as Peter had his charging rotor removed and therefore, no precise means of timing. We set everything to the detent position, gapped the points and fired it up.
Since we were about to get first call for the first race, Peter was willing to go with what we had. A drink of water, Gwinnett County Tap, my favorite brand and first call came across. I soon learned Summit Point has consistently fast calls for races.
The warm up lap was at a nice pace for learning the track at speed. To date, my time around the track was at a pace relative to a parade lap. Now I was able to maintain speed with the warm up riders. No big feat, unless you have had a hard time achieving such speeds all morning long.
Coming around the last turn and approaching the grids, I realized that I had not written down my grid position on my tank. Now I must depend on my old timer’s memory.
Luckily for me, my grid position was a “no brainer” meant for me.
I pulled into the center spot on the third row and reviewed my memory for my last race position, in case I was to do this again.
No need for me to get the “meatball” flag again. I have already received mine! Of all the Team Old & Oily members, I received my meatball flag first. It seems that as time goes on and we change our bikes from the team colors (black and metal) to more colorful designs that the only requirements left are to receive the meatball flag and posses the ability to appreciate a cold beer.
The track master is a bit of a character. Not the refined professional that I proudly refer to as “my father on the track” Chuck who covers the southeast. I’m home, when Chuck has the track. I have a warm sense of safety about me. You have to meet the man to know what I am talking about.
The grids were fairly full. As a visitor to the region, I was sent to the back of the pack. No points had I accumulated towards start at the pole position. So I was privileged to watch all the racers and their starting techniques. Engines began to rev as we watched the time board go from 3 to 2. A combination of four stroke and two stroke oil and burned fuel aromas filled the air and distorted my view.
All at once, the1 board appeared, flipped sideways, and the flag ripped through the air. The procession began a fast accelerating pace toward the distant turn one markers. From the standing start, I was not able to achieve top speed before turn one, but I was accelerating in top gear. An with the last second braking of my newly enable rear stock brake and the CB77 Superhawk front wheel and 40 year old shoes, I went from lightning speed to a leaning crawl through turn one and accelerated toward turn two.
The local pack knows their track. Most of them were out of sight within the first lap. Seems that I did have a race with this one guy who would take me in the straits and I would have to pass in the turns. Only after the lap where I took him on the back strait, did I realize it was Peter. Seems our guestimate of timing was less than optimum. When Peter pulled off the track, I was left with only one mission, avoid being lapped.
This had been the first time in a couple years that I did not have anyone around me. No reference point by which to judge my pace, on a track I was not familiar with. I started thinking of my first year with Keith and the Norton. Time-shared track rental, I called it back then. Being in the back of the pack was nothing more than using the track space that no one else found useful at the time. It was peaceful and self-paced. An occasional glance over the shoulders would give you a feel of how long you had till you were in the middle of some prime real estate.
The peaceful pace was to continue all the way to the finish line. I had time to observe the track and its recently paved curves. Noting with each passing the perils that they held for the contestant that would exceed their limits. I continually became fixated on the actual trench to the right of the last turn. Any racer who ended up there would have a terrible crash. Eight inches deep and eight inches wide, it would throw a rider off their bike before the end of its run. Car racers must have created it in rainy conditions. Shivers ran down my spine each time I took that right hand turn and realized that although my tires were not in the trough, my body was traveling over it.
I noted the serious number of properly banked turns that would allow for faster entry and exits. That was something that the local racers have determined long ago. Most of the turns in the southeast circuit have “off camber” turns, causing a rider to slow down in order to stay upright and on his bike. Most of these turns were fast and properly banked for faster lap times.
The end of the race came without incident. There was nobody nearby for a close race to the finish. Salutes and blown kisses to the corner workers as I finished the cool down lap and I went into the pits. The bike was behaving at 90% and I had finished my first race of the season without technical difficulties. That was a plus that I would hold onto, that and the fact that I did not get lapped.
Between my first and second race was only one Solo race. That’s where the modern bike and younger riders spend twice the mileage screaming around the track with skill and speed. During that time, I dismantled my tent, rolled up my sleeping bag, pulled down my ramp and prep the truck for my return trip. By the time I was done, it was first call and I still needed to fill my tank.
At a racer’s pace I entered the track just before the 3 minute board and paraded around the track and to my grid position. Of course I did not have time to tape my grid position to my tank, so I was fortunate during my Summit Point run to have memorable grid positions. I proceeded to the center of the thirteenth row and left the bike in gear. The 2 minute board went almost immediately. I guess I was holding up the works.
Engines began to rev. Riders crouched down behind their fairing or number plates. The one minute board was exposed, went sideways and the flag flew through the air. This run included significantly more two stroke engines. To be more specific, the Formula 500 class was running and there was no way to prevent being lapped.
The vintage two stroke screaming engines would be passing me after the sixth or seventh lap, no doubt. Right now, I had to concentrate on the turns that I was still learning. I stayed with the bulk of the pack by late braking and a diving turn into One. Anticipating the accelerating mass I hit it hard coming out of the turn and was pushed outside with a few other racers trying to pass the mob. It felt good. The tires liked it and it became a natural means of running turn one.
By the later turn that create the sequence called the carrousel there were still a few bikes in sight, but I had not come close to mastering the track yet and it cost me position and pace. Passing the trench, I decided to concentrate on what to do, rather on what not to do. Going faster through the turns that allowed just that is what I centered my interests on. I spent the rest of the race trying to overcome the optical illusions created by my experience in the southeastern tracks and the obvious angles of the turns in front of me.
By the sixth lap, my concentration had to be on taking a predictable line. I was no being lapped on a regular basis. My job was to make that easy by telegraphing what I was doing and where I would be as they passed me. They were gentle. There were no “rubbing elbows” or”bumping bikes”. And as each one passed, I learned a little more. The track was no mystery. I just needed a little more concentrated time in the saddle. That’s exactly why I was here, in preparation for the September 20th run. That’s when the whole Atlanta gang was coming down to race.
The mixed emotion side of being lapped is two fold. First you are realizing just how mismatched your bike is when you “bump up” to the next faster class in order to get a second race in while traveling such a distance and doing all that prep work. The other side is knowing that the mismatch shortens your race since the eight or ten scheduled laps is for those first riders that complete the designated laps. Everyone else is done when the winner completes his final lap.
The checked flag marked only the second of the finish lines I was headed for today. I rode back to my truck and up into the bed and tied down the bike. I stripped out of my leathers and packed the remaining race materials and tools into my truck. Then I drove to the pit area where Tex and Joe, Steve and Peter and the rest of the gang was settling in. I thanked them for taking me in and informed them of the last 600 miles of my race that would be completed by days end. They were gracious and I was out of there.
The ride home put me in around midnight, tired and ready for a shower and bed. This is where I put this segment to bed now. More to come of the Nashville crash and win story soon…