Second Out of Two, Twice!
Roebling Road Raceway was a solo run for me. Keith had other obligations to deal with, so I was on my own. This did afford me the advantage of leaving from work and heading Southeast, rather than retracing my steps and playing Friday traffic games in two directions. So I had packed up Friday morning and headed to work.
Things were busy in the morning, but waned as the day progressed. As I had both computers working on their last assignments for the week, it was time to hit the road. The Ranger was loaded with everything but air conditioning, or so I thought. I travelled down I-75 and did like most south-bound traffic at that time of day on a Friday, paraded slowly past the Atlanta Motor Speedway area. Construction and congestion were the only items on the menu.
After an hour of clutch exhaustion and overheating, the traffic faded and I-16 was not far ahead. Then, I-16 was all there was. Even at ten miles per hour over speed limit cruising, I-16 is just one long, hot, strait, boring road to a very fast track. So, thoughts began to drift to the next day’s adventures. Remembering the layout of the track was easy for me. Roebling is one of the few tracks that I raced back in 1996. That was when Art Bone was my racing mentor. He tutored me in both the mechanics and philosophy of racing. I remember lines like “You don’t need any brakes! They just slow you down.”
My first race at Roebling was also my first race in the rain. Roebling had been long overdue for a repaving. The cars that raced there had created the most serious ripples in the track. While racing around the high speed track, I could feel the tangential movement the bike would make when there was no pavement under me to maintain my turns. Take that effect and add rain, and you I one wild ride. It was my second race ever, and I went from 28th to 16th place. Art was quite impressed and had my expectations quite nicely inflated for the next race, Daytona. I’ll have to save that run for another segment.
In the last few miles on the interstate, I decided to take a mental inventory of all I would need and what I brought with me. When I got to tent, sleeping bag, and air mattress, everything came to a halt. Twice I had reminded myself to grab them from the stack where they were dropped off after four days of Boy Scout Camp. And twice I had ignored my best advice. Then I realized that I was without a place to stay. Alternatives included the usual; 1) sleep in the cab of the truck 2) use the canvas tarp as a tent and ground cover 3) get a hotel for $90 for 6 hours sleep. Option 3 was only there to put things into perspective. I continued to the track and paid for camping.
Upon finding Doug and Charlie’s pit area, I mentioned my dilemma. Charlie immediately offered his sleeping bag since it was 85 degrees out. Doug talked me into using the covered bed of his truck for a tent. I showered off the sweaty ride and slipped into some fresh clean clothes. Then, I folded Charlie’s sleeping bag in half lengthwise and wrapped it in my canvas. That gave me a narrow, but cushioned buffer between me and the bed of the truck. My sister in-law had given me an airline blanket some time back and it’s always in my truck for emergencies, just like this. I added one long sleeve tee shirt and was set for the night. I get by with a little help from my friends. Thanks everybody.
After a semi-restful night’s sleep, Doug’s obnoxiously cheerful face was lowering the tail gate and saying “rise and shine”. Charlie is also an early riser as he starts work around 6 AM. So up and out with a can of Coke and the day had begun. The Perethians, (Charly, Max and Jesse) were in shortly after the gate opened. Stephen “Guzzi” Brenton was already there and resting comfortably before I pulled in the night before. It was a light turn out, but this was not at all surprising considering a 250 plus mile each way trip from Atlanta area and $4 per gallon for gasoline. I really appreciate my 25 miles per gallon, 5 speed manual tranny Ford Ranger. 25 MPG also makes cost calculations easy.
Come to find out, the turnout was so low I was going to be racing against only one competitor in each of my races. That was the biggest disappointment after sweating for hours and getting very little rest before the race.
Practice proved to be all I was hoping for. I had topped off the tank to the very top and had absolutely no problem with the cap venting in all the air necessary to send a more than adequate supply of gas to the carburetors. My half season long mystery was over. I had solved the problem (finally) and was able to concentrate on racing while on the track, rather than troubleshooting. I was geared correctly for Roebling Road’s fast sweeping turns with minimal slowdowns. All was well.
Everybody seemed to have decent practice sessions. No major technical problems. It was hot, but we were blessed with a very nice constant breeze. Without it, we would have had to deal with 90 to 100 percent humidity in the low to mid 90s. That would have stunk, literally.
The racer’s meeting included the traditional “drink water and then drink some more”. Races were combined for the Solo guys as every class had a significantly reduced grid set. This was going to be a “make your own fun” day, or there was going to be very little fun to be had.
The monotony was broken when Bob Hughes and his son Chris showed up. Bob, a professional photographer specializing in architectural photography is also a good buddy from the Greater Atlanta Norton Owners Association . Chris is a photographer specializing in action events like motorcycle racing. His photos of the Roebling Road race that day are posted here. http://chughes.info/wera/ Bob made his presence known to all in our pit area. He started snapping off pics and taking posed photos of racers with their machines. Chris immediately scoped out the lay of the land and determined the ideal places to be during the upcoming races.
In the first race, the V5 class pitted Doug Bowie against Kith Burkingstock. I had the pleasure of meeting Kith (long I sound) the night before during the last round of malt beverages. He seemed to be a very personable guy. At the same time, the V3 class had four contestants battling for the ideal finish.
As is traditional in most races that Doug runs in, he took first place with no difficulty at all. His Ducati has superior power even long before Doug’s skills get to take charge. The V3 race, however, had what became a repeating theme for the day’s vintage racing. It too, had only two contestants cross the finish line. While Jim Henshaw and Stephen Brenton battled for first and second, seems that Paul Garland and Steve “Steve-O” Staser did not get to finish the race. So, Race 1 V5 and V3 each had first and second place trophies awarded and no others.
I got to take part in the second vintage race of the day. The GP500 included me and John Rickard on his Triumph 500 twin. John had mentioned that there had been some recent improvements made to the bike and he was testing them out at Roebling to ensure the bike was ready for the Mid Ohio AHRMA races. He was not planning to run the following weekend at Talladega. The V2 race had four participants. Steve-O, Doug Reese, Lyn Garland, and Atlanta’s own Charly Parethian. As you may have guessed, not all of these four were destined to see the finish line.
I lined up with John in the first row, side by side. The rest of the pack were behind us on bikes that were definitely faster than mine. With my bike being the slowest bike in my class and the class behind me being faster than I, there was only one possible outcome. Chuck stared us down. We revved our engines. The race had begun. John Rickard had a most impressive start and was out of my line of sight by the time I hit turn one. Any of the V2 bike that had not passed me by turn one, did so as we came out of the turn and entered the fast sweepers that followed. I knew what I would see, but looked back anyway. The pressure was off. The bikes on the track were a bit faster than mine. All I could do was test the tank venting, my gearing, and practice my technique.
When it was all said and done, I was not lapped. This was my consolation for being the last one in this heat. The V2 class phenomenon was only partially broken. Lyn Garland did not start, but all three of the other V2 racers completed the race. Somebody broke the spell and would pay dearly.
The solo racers were screaming by between the main events (vintage races). For just being grid fillers and time spacers, those guys sure know what they’re doing out there.
The next vintage race set was Formula 500 with 5 registered racers, V1 with 5 registered racers, and GP350 where Doug Bowie and I were going to battle it out. I’m sure I had him sweating that one out. It was, after all, almost 90 degrees out. Doug had been teasing me about being on his old “stock” 240cc single that was on its last leg. He told me how the clutch was worn and slipping. So, my best bet was going to be to get into turn one first. Then Doug was going to be my wingman.
Since the GP350 class represented the least powerful machines on the track for this race, Doug and I were sharing the back row. All other racers were in front of us from the start. Chuck went from his relaxed, looking at his watch, stance and began to stare us down. A little smoke from the two stroke class bike began to drift across the grid. The numbers flipped from 2 to 1, then went sideways, and the green flag ripped through the air. The race had begun.
My revs were up pretty high as I popped the clutch and hugged the tank. I did get a better start off the line than Doug had. It’s a long strait from the starting line to turn one at Roebling Road. My gears shifting each time I began to red line the little Honda stock 325 cc machine. And, just when I was thinking of leaning in to take the apex of turn one, Doug blasted past me like I was driving in my subdivision while there were a lot of kids present. I didn’t look back this time. I didn’t need to. I knew that I was the proverbial “last guy on the track”.
Again, I had only one goal. Avoid being lapped.
The whole race would have been just that, if not for the “three’s a crowd” curse that plagued Charly Perethian. Having been razzed a bit by most of the guys going at his pace, Charly actually started pushing his bike and skill a bit harder. As we neared the end of the race, Charly, Doug, Royce Eaton, and Steve-O were in close proximity to each other and trading places for a while. At one point, Charly decided to hang tight and went to the outside of Royce. In doing so, he actually got in front of Royce just in time to lay the bike down in Royce’s way. This caused my 72 year old hero to have to look for the least damaging way to get out of a tough situation.
Royce is an excellent mechanic and racer. In the five years I have been on the track with Royce, I have never heard of him crashing. As such, he is not very good at it. But then again, who wants to be? Doug was right behind Royce and swears that Royce developed a case of fixation syndrome on the sliding motorcycle. Eventually Royce was trapped when the bike spun into his path. About ten seconds later, I came into the turn under a red flag and saw Royce’s bright blue leathers down and barely moving. Charly was pacing back and forth like one would if they were not happy with something they had done. Since we had gone more than halfway through the race, it was over.
Later at the pits, we got to see pictures of the crash in action. Chris had positioned himself at the right place at the right time. http://chughes.info/wera/classics/1/
Royce was going to be okay. Steve-O put it quite succinctly when he said “Royce got his bell rung, but he knew where he was and what day it was.” A cut on his finger will hopefully be the only memorable injury from this rare Royce occurance.
That was all I could take for one day. So, after the awards were handed out, I hit the road and headed for the shower.
Talladega has already happened and I know the outcomes. As soon as I can, I will pass on the update to you. As Road Atlanta is this Saturday, I should probably get done really soon. I will say that I got Dany (my sponsor’s former CB77 Superhawk race bike) running this weekend. Like Martin said, the carburetors need some work. I will give all the tune up variables a check before we hit the track. If all goes well, she should make Road Atlanta for a debut.
More then, Jack