Working late into Friday night, Keith worked on his race bike while I worked on my own. The plan was verified that we would meet early Saturday morning 5:30 AM and load his stuff into my truck and eat breakfast on the way. By the time I got there, it was a comfortable 72 degrees and we were both sweating due to the high humidity when loading the truck. Saturday was going to be a scorcher.
The predicted weather forecast was for a very humid 94 degrees in Talladega Alabama. Rain would have been welcome, if it was heavy enough to drop the temperature by 10 degrees. It could have been fatal if it rained just enough to raise the humidity to 100%.
Keith spent his Friday working on the clutch only after mounting and balancing the CB77 Superhawk wheel and new brake shoes onto his front forks. Serious braking power. But remember, brakes just slow you down and this is racing.
I spent my time refining the carburetors and gathering spares to bring with me. Little did I know that fixing the working portion of the bike does not get the same results as repairing the ailing portions.
With cameras rolling we took the track for our first practice session. Tire warmers, which aren’t usually used by vintage road racers, were not necessary today. The sun was beating down on the track and warming the tires nicely. But, spitting and sputtering was in store for my trusty stead. Top RPMs were inhibited by something that I could not define. The SL350 (black) carburetors have never really given me total confidence, but they worked on the CL350 until the motor blew???
Second practice session was not meant to be for Keith. Just as he went to mount his trusty stead, he notice he had broken a muffler mount, again. He wrenched while I tested the latest adjustments to my carburetor system. By the time I got back Keith had borrowed a drill and was modifying the aluminum bracket he brought to fix this inevitable issue. Meanwhile, I started selecting the carbs that I would rebuild in between race 1 and race 9 to solve my sputtering issue. I was happy that the Heli-coil that came out with my spark plug did go right back in and stayed tight…
Lots of water. That’s all I remember was drinking lots of water. Racer’s meeting was a sweaty redundant gathering. Still drinking more water…
Then, after the National Anthem, the Minis took to the track and “first call” for race one was announced. Leathers on, boots on, (getting hotter) chest protector on, (getting even hotter), gloves on, ear plugs in, (hotter) and helmet on. Sweating all the way to the track. Just when you think it couldn’t get any hotter, it was time for the warm-up lap. (It was actually very comfortable with the air going by)
Racers in their grid positions and Chuck puts his arm down and stops looking at his watch. This is his indication that we are out of time. The green flag is coming soon. All racers pop their bikes into first gear and begin to rev their engines. Charlotte, Chuck’s wife, drops the #3 board and stabilizes the #2 board, a moment later, she flips the 2 board to display the 1 board, rotates 90 degrees a moment later, and Chuck rips the green flag through the air, starting the race.
It was evident early on that Keith’s bike was running much better than mine. Before turn one, he passed me and was headed toward the faster class in front of us. As I began to lean in for turn one, more of my “class mates” were passing me. And, by the time we approached turn 2, most of the class had worked their way by me. And, just to make things worse, this was all being recorded. Don’t know how I’ll edit that out.
The strait-a-ways gave me a chance to verify that the new gearing configuration that I worked on before departing Friday night and refined in the pits Saturday morning was now, right on the money. Although the bike wasn’t behaving at top end, I could tell if it was, it’d be right at redline when maxed out. FYI, for Talladega on a stock SL350 (K1-K2) the 40 tooth rear sprocket wants a 16 tooth front sprocket.
So, with a misbehaving bike, the camera showed nothing, nobody in front of me for the 2nd to 6th lap. Then Dean Middleton came by me so thoughtfully. As he passed, he reached back and waved to me. What a guy. The most enjoyable part of the race was watching my team mate hang with the “the pack” of GP riders like he wanted and deserved a trophy. He gave them a Sirius run for their money. And, I knew that all I needed to do in time for the next race was get that second set of carburetors rebuilt and on my bike and I’d be with him.
Sweating in the pits, I rebuilt the carbs. Looking down at my make shift work bench meant that the sweat from my brow would roll down and into my eyes. Salt stings! I couldn’t keep the sweat off my face. It kept stinging my eyes. Torture! Finally, when complete, I could look up and see something other than blurry, sweat filled visions. Now I was ready…
There’s a lot of time between race 1 and race 9. Even though we had NO red flags, no major accidents and no delays at all, it seemed like it took and infernal eternity.
Finally in the grids and revving bikes, a green flag helped us cool down like it was only 85 degrees out. What a relief! But, just like the previous race, by bike behaved the exact same way. My only consolation was that I probably had two good sets of recently rebuilt carbs for racing?
I did get to stay closer to the pack for a longer period of time, but that was because I pushed it a little harder in the turns to make up for a loss of power. That worked for about half the race, until my brakes faded at “Russell’s Curve”. (Infamously earned its name when Russell Baggett went down just after the track was reconfigured into its new formation. Once I realized that I wasn’t slowing down fast enough, I decided to take is strait up. Braking both front and rear at maximum until I hit the grass, I was able to slow down enough to maintain control in the grass. Up until this point, I thought I was the back of the pack. But, when I went to get back on the track, there was David Hurst, coming up on me fast.
I chose what I thought would be the safest way back on the track to avoid David and as I shifted into third gear, he passed me. Fourth gear and he was pulling away. Then as I burst into fifth gear, I began to pace David. I could tell he was putting up a struggle, now that he had the chance to have me finish behind him. I tailed him through half the track and took my chance when available. It did make for some good footage of David. Then, the camera saw nothing but track until Dean Middleton came flying by. My one claim to fame was being able to keep the rest of the pack from lapping me. Now, that would have been embarrassing.
Prologue: It was Sunday morning. I’d had a good night’s sleep (an eight hour coma) after dropping Keith off and unloading all his stuff. So, I was fairly clear headed by the time he called. He told me about taking a shower (where he does his best thinking) and how he was diagnosing my bike’s issue. No need for anyone to wonder about Keith thinking about me and my bike while in the shower. My wife already accuses us of “spooning” together on our race trips.
He said he kept coming back to a ground issue. When he mentioned it, it was like a light bulb went off. But, not the usual digital off and the immediately to on type of light. But rather, more of a fade from black, like at the beginning of a movie. I told Keith that I had basically used the existing stock wiring harness, slightly modified. He asked if the engine was grounded. That really began to make me think. I had removed the engine to swap out the 30mm head with a CL350 32mm head. Had I fastened a ground???
Either way, I have dedicated this week to fabricating a new wiring harness for what will soon be my “B” bike. After the wiring harness is completed on “Silver Bucket”, it’s time to get back to rebuilding the motor for “Silver Sister”.