So, now it’s official. The 2010 WERA Vintage Race season is now open!
Only a few of the most dedicated racers completed the day with all races attended. Some had to go home to daughter’s recitals. And, many just didn’t show at all. Either way, those who did complete the day probably have points in two classes. And, that class standing will remain as is for almost three months.
You read that correctly. The next race is not until the end of April. That leaves 10 weekends without racing. Plenty of time for motorcycle maintenance.
As for what did take place in the GP350 and GP500 classes, it went like this:
The trip to Talladega was cold, wet, and with low visibility. At 35 degrees, all day long, the weather was not why we went to Talladega Gran Prix Raceway. Our mission was to get therapy. So, in spite of Keith saying "Turn around, I’m not going to race in the rain!" I proceeded toward Talladega. Each time there was rain on the windshield, Keith would have to point it out, saying "Turn around, I’m not going to race in the rain!" I still trudged forward. As we crossed the Alabama state line and the clouds actually got darker. Once again, Keith would whine "Turn around, I’m not going to race in the rain!" So, I assured him, the track would be dry.
Upon arrival at the race track, we drove to the "tower" for registration. I had preregistered, so I got to take the short line. The down side was that Keith hadn’t preregistered, so I got to pick our pit area and unload the truck. Drizzling, cold and uncomfortable was the setting for early Saturday, February 6th. Keith arrived in time to take the last two items out of the back of the truck. The bikes. They had spent the night getting cold, only to get super chilled on the ride to Tally. Starting was a cumbersome endeavor that made us each wish we had three hands. They spit and sputtered barely above idle speed for a long time. Then we were able to get them to rev. We figured as the day got warmer the bikes would behave better…
We went through tech inspection for both the bikes and our gear. No problems there. This is the last year that my helmet is covered by the "5 years from manufacture date" that it will be allowed on the track. Good news is, the last month is October when the GNF is run at Road Atlanta. So, it will be tops on my Christmas list.
With our slightly delayed arrival and the cold weather, we were barely behind all morning long. Finally, Group 6 practice session had "first call" so we scrambled into our race leathers and started the bikes. Man oh man, did they resist starting, and then warming up! Half way round the track, my bike began to run like it was supposed to. And, as the drizzle was beginning to be a true rain, I decided to be happy with the bike after it gave me reason to believe it would behave. So, I pulled into Pit In and headed back to the truck before my leathers got soaked. I believed the day old weather report that said Tally would be dry after the rains ended Friday. No rain suit was necessary since the report was dry weather. So, no rain suit was taken, by me.
After the first practice session I got to spend some time with the two newbies that were checking out the racing situation. John Cook and Jim Moser were both toughing out the cold weather. They came by to see how other bikes were configured. Many different tricks and tips were absorbed on that very cold day.
John had come to pick up his frame, forks, swing arm, and wheels in order to start the assembly of his race bike. He plans to sand blast, grind, weld, and paint the frame. After that, I have to have is race motor ready to go. I better get hopping.
Jim is an AHRMA dirt bike racer and has been for many years. But, like only a few old dirt bike guys, he’s considering hanging up his dirt/mud suit for road racing leathers.
Both of these gentlemen will be starting their road race career in the GP350/GP500 (CB350 Honda stocker class) this year. After assembling their bikes, they are off to race school. I have recommended that they take the $75 WERA race school and then jump onto the track. If they wish to take maximum advantage of the Ed Bargy Road Race School, it’s best done with some experience under their belts. That way, the areas that Ed covers is being recalled from experience versus being just a vague concept.
Finally the second practice session arrived with only minimal drizzle, but the track was still soaked and no dry spots were present. So, the practice session was more of a bike test then a race practice. We finished the second practice without any crashes in spite of many slip-slide effect from improper down shifting, on my part.
The racer’s meeting, at lunch time, was as complete as expected for the first race of the year. Ed Bargy ran the meeting and then turned over to our starter, Chuck Edgeworth. Chuck gave the ever diligent, first race of the year rundown as a reminder to all who have been wishing the race season would start, but not reviewing the rule book. He also does what ever he can to keep us as safe a possible while on the track. Chuck’s wife Charlotte is an integral part of the team as well. Her ever consistent number displays make it easy to interpret what is going on, even when staring directly into the sun just before it sets on the last race of the day.
We didn’t have much time after the racer’s meeting to eat lunch, check the bikes and get them warmed up. There was a Minis race, but it was a shortened race. So, gobble and go was the lunch motto. Finished suiting up for the track and warmed up the bikes, at least as warm as we could get them at our pits. A short ride to the Pit Out area and we waited for direction to enter the track. The delays at tracks like Talladega include track crossings. Since all participants enter the track and stay inside the perimeter of the track itself, you must wait in line between races to exit the track. Track crossings don’t take long, but it can seem that way when you are cold and ready to get on the track.
Warm up lap: In our early days of racing, Keith and I had two different chants that we used during the warm up lap. I always remind myself of the shift pattern. Either I’d say "Slow up and Get down" for GP shifting. Or, I’d say "Speed up, Slow down" for standard shift. This is important when you run multiple shift pattern bikes. When we first started racing I had four different bikes with four different shift patterns. Standard shift and GP shift for the left foot and the same for the right. Nortons shift on the right, as do many Triumphs, BSAs, etc..
Keith on the other hand would always chant "Don’t crash on the warm up lap, Don’t crash on the warm up lap,…" This was his way of building confidence and making it to the starting grid.
Well, on this particular warm up lap, we had a casualty. I won’t name any names, but he is usually one of the very few that usually lap us on the track. So, either you had to be there or you have to do some research. But yes, he actually crashed on the warm up lap. We didn’t.
Race 1: The rainy day had barely hung with us. Occasionally drizzle in the air, gusts of cold wind in our faces, and of course, the pending steaming windshields of our helmets. Managing the face shield was crucial. Not having enough vent crack would cause the helmet to steam up. Too much vent would freeze your face off and risk rain or other debris into your eyes.
We approached the grid and I did not know that we were a racer short. Therefore I did not know about the perils that took down a more than 30 veteran to motorcycle racing. I was oblivious to the concern and its location. Keith and I were lined up side by side on the ninth row. Charlotte had our attention with the number board. Chuck was looking at his watch, indicating we had time to go over our bikes and gear, if necessary.
Then, Chuck put is watch arm down, and leaned forward. We were now looking at the number 2 in Charlotte’s hands. She flipped it to 1, and then rotated it. An equidistant time later, Chuck ripped the green flag through the cold air and we were off. I was quite surprised at my slightly quicker than others start off the line. I was able to hold the lead in my class through turn one and was almost held up by the V1 class that started more than 100 feet in front of me.
My $163 SL350 was still geared for the GNF and the long straits at Road Atanta. I knew this ahead of time, but the darn global warming winter we have experienced has left us without any of our usual 15 to 25 days of Indian Summer. It’s even been too cold to work in the garage. All my outdoor efforts have been physically exerting, warmth generating, energy burning activities like leaf raking and firewood chopping. Holding still and working on a motorcycle gets old and cold fast in this weather.
So, back to the track, we made it out of turn one and just as I was going to have to either hit the brakes or cut in between the V1 pack, they started to roll on the power. The good news is that they had just enough power to move out of my way, but not leave me behind. I trailed the pack through turn 2 with no sign of anyone in my class around me. Wayne Moore was sporting a very nice Triumph 500. It was not in my class in this race, but would be in my next, so I tracked him keenly. The track was wet. We were taking it easy and hoping the track would be dry later in the day.
Trading places with Wayne Moore was Steve Upchurch. Another V1 class racer, he’s been in my sights for sometime now. But, each time I start to hang close to him, he turns up the heat and put distance between us. Today might be different. The conditions of the track can be a big variable. Today the track was wet…
As we made it through the twists and turns of Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, I had seen no sign of any competition in my class. I had not looked back since my race was in front of me. Into the back strait that approaches Russell’s curve, I am stayin on the gas and trying to resist the temptation to let go of the gas and hit the brakes as long as possible. I remembered the rainy track and decide to ease off a little. Making it through Russell’s chicane, I straiten up for the start finish line that completes the first lap and BAMMO! Out of nowhere Chris Adams (this year’s man on my radar) flies past me and heads towards the pack I have been chasing. One lap and I had delusions of grandeur. Just one lap…
As I tailed the fading V1 pack, I watched Chris weave in and out of the V1 racers and head toward the faster guys. Later, I heard that he was starting to give Charlie Young a run for his money. This guy is good. And, I think he can step up my game this year. Stay tuned.
By this time, I have Steve and Wayne in my sights, but I must admit, they are not as close as they used to be. Either they are pouring it on, or I am fading back.. I looked back to see what was about to take me and I had at least a quarter mile lead on Keith. He wasn’t closing. I wouldn’t have any more excitement until Dean Middleton ripped past me and shortened my race by a lap. Not much else changed for the rest of the race.
Chris Adams took first place, I took second and Keith came in at third. Everything would have been shifted back by one place, had there not been a crash in the warm up lap…
Back at the pits, Keith was complaining about his bike not working the way it did during practice. He checked the obvious; fuel in tank, petcock on, a complete visual inspection, and nothing appeared obvious. Trying to help, I asked if it seemed like a dead battery. His immediate response was… "I did change batteries after the last practice session". A voltage check of the battery in his bike revealed a 9.9 volt charge on his 12 volt battery. He also admitted that one of his batteries spent the winter in his bike, in the garage, in the midst of this nasty Global Warming Winter. Go figure. A new battery was installed and he was ready for the next race.
We just finished our first race, the first race of the day, and had to wait till the last race before we would race again. As you may have guessed, we spent most of our time in the truck with the heater on. Now, that felt like global warming!
There was going to be no warmth left in the motors between races today, so we started the bikes halfway through the Solo 20 lap race just before ours and I left mine idling until I rode to Pit Out.
Second race of the day was the GP500. Chris Adams already left. He went back home in time for his daughter’s recital. The racer that crashed during the warm up lap also left. Seems he was okay, but he did break his foot peg and the bike was therefore not ride worthy. So, my primary competition was to be Wayne Moore and Keith Bennett made it a point to let me know I was in for it, now that he had a new battery in place.
In the GP500, we start in the front of the pack. Keith and I were on the first row, all by our selves. We were supposed to have company, but he was already home with his broken foot peg. As we did run cameras and they behaved fairly well, they still shut off on my bike in the first race. So, a new set of batteries all around and we planned to record. But, this almost didn’t happen as Keith took off for the track before I started his camera. I scrambled to finish doning my gear and pulled in front of him just before he hit the track. Got his camera started and waved him on. This also meant that I had to get off my running bike and start mine.
During the warm up lap, we could see that the track’s race line was dry. Other parts of the track were drying as well. The bike was already warm, so I didn’t need to test in at all. Smooth revs to max and shift, repeat as needed.
When you start in the front, you can’t see anything behind you. All you can do is ride hard and hope you are pulling away from those behind you. Chuck took us though the motions and the green flag ripped through the air with bikes revving to maximum RPMs. Again, my improperly geared SL350 was still able to get me to turn 1 first. Wayne Moore was in the row behind me. With his four-speed properly geared for "at speed racing" he was not expected to be optimized performance until he had the bike up to speed and had to brake for the first time. This meant that turn 2 was to be his "turning point". But by then I had my lead and was holding onto it. Both Steve and Wayne were some "hesitant" based on Keith’s complaint that they were in his way in the early part of the first lap. Video shows this to be true, but not for long.
The remainder of the first lap had me out in front with a nice margin, but both Steve and Wayne wanted to be in front of me. The completion of the first lap had me crossing the start/finish line and running fast into turn 1. The track was dry, but cold. This meant that the tires were cold as well. I took turn one conservatively fast and shot out for the cone marker. No problem.
Approaching turn 2, Wayne and Steve passed me just in time to dive into the turn. I stuck with them and pushed them hard into the turn. With no strait aways for a while, I made them think twice about passing me. As we entered the last "horse shoe" before the back strait, I braked late and rode parallel with Steve through the whole turn. It was marvelous. Because I was on the outside, I had to be going faster because we stayed locked together until we uprighted at the strait. Steve poured on the V1 power of his 350, high compression, bored out and oversized motor and began to pull away.
By the time we crossed the start/finish line for the second time, they were yards ahead of me so I looked back for Keith. He hadn’t cleared Russell’s chicane yet. My race was in front of me so I pushed a little harder in turn 1. I kept Steve and Wayne close to me. But by the fourth lap, I could tell they were consistently putting distance between us a little at a time. Looking back again, Keith was back there, but more than a turn behind me. It seemed that my position was as I would finish until…
I began to feel as if my rear tire was loosing air. In turns, my bike felt like it was beginning to wobble slightly. It seemed to me as if the tire was moving on the rim. As I passed each corner worker, it was as if they all had their eyeballs trained on my bike. No flags were waived at me, so I kept on going. My confidence in the bike was fading. I was being looked at by tech personnel and I felt the rear tire as different, but I kept on going. But I wasn’t going top speed. Each time I looked back at Keith, he was closer. With each lap he was noticeably closer.
By the eighth lap, Keith was just one horse shoe turn behind me, but he wasn’t alone. Dean Middleton who was tearing up the track was behind Keith and about to pass him. My calculations put him passing me before the start/finish line, but he didn’t pass be till after turn 1. This meant that I never received the white flag (last lap to go). Dean received the white, as did Keith shortly thereafter. Dean passed me in the first half of the last lap of the race. Keith kept closing so I stayed a fast as I felt safe. I made it to the finish line well before Keith, thanks to Dean cutting our second race short by a lap. Man is he fast!
We loaded the bike ASAP, filled our crap in the back of the truck and rushed off to the awards ceremony. I rushed so fast that I locked my keys in the truck. The awards were handed out in "race order" so, after the Minis awards, GP350 was the next race awarded. We received our plaques with Keith getting Third Place, I got Second Place and thanked WERA, the corner workers, and SIRIUS Consolidated Inc, my sponsor and asked for assistance if anyone knew how to break into a Chevy Silverado. Chris Adams name was called for First Place, but he was already back in Rome at his daughter’s recital.
A modern bike racer by the name of Blake Jones came up to me and said he could possibly help. While waiting for the GP500 race awards I found out that Blake’s girlfriend had taken the race school and worked her way into the Minis race that morning. In spite of crashing in race school, she won the Minis race in her class.
You go, Kat (sp?)!
For the GP500, Wayne Moore took First Place, I took Second, and Keith took Third Place, again.
After the awards, Blake came by and took a look at the situation. He gave me an assignment and left to find what tools he had available. I had just finished my task when I knew he knew what he was doing. He had the obvious tool and it took ten seconds. Unfortunately, we only had one Miller Lite left in the cooler, but he made be feel great with his positive response to the offer. Thanks Blake and Kat!
Oh by the way… for all you V5 racers out there, Kat will be riding her Ninja 250 this season. She’s light, has a great attitude, and once you see her, she will up your game. She’ll make you want to be up there on the podium with her.
As for the rest of this story, it involved the heat on maximum, blower on maximum and headed east, back to Atlanta.
We have ELEVEN weeks till our next race at Nashville Superspeedway. April 24th. Be there!